An Experimental Investigation of Emotions and Reasoning in the Trolley Problem

Journal of Business Ethics 83 (4):789-804 (2008)
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Abstract

Elaborating on the notions that humans possess different modalities of decision-making and that these are often influenced by moral considerations, we conducted an experimental investigation of the Trolley Problem. We presented the participants with two standard scenarios (‹lever’ and ‹stranger’) either in the usual or in reversed order. We observe that responses to the lever scenario, which result from (moral) reasoning, are affected by our manipulation; whereas responses to the stranger scenario, triggered by moral emotions, are unaffected. Furthermore, when asked to express general moral opinions on the themes of the Trolley Problem, about half of the participants reveal some inconsistency with the responses they had previously given.

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