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Overriding Moral Intuitions – Does It Make Us Immoral? Dual-Process Theory of Higher Cognition Account for Moral Reasoning

Authors: Michał Białek, Simon J. Handley


Moral decisions are considered as an intuitive process, while conscious reasoning is mostly used only to justify those intuitions. This problem is described in few different dual-process theories of mind, that are being developed e.g. by Frederick and Kahneman, Stanovich and Evans. Those theories recently evolved into tri-process theories with a proposed process that makes ultimate decision or allows to paraformal processing with focal bias.. Presented experiment compares the decision patterns to the implications of those models. In presented study participants (n=179) considered different aspects of trolley dilemma or its footbridge version and decided after that. Results show that in the control group 70% of people decided to use the lever to change tracks for the running trolley, and 20% chose to push the fat man down the tracks. In contrast, after experimental manipulation almost no one decided to act. Also the decision time difference between dilemmas disappeared after experimental manipulation. The result supports the idea of three co-working processes: intuitive (TASS), paraformal (reflective mind) and algorithmic process.

Keywords: Moral Reasoning, reflection, moral decision, trolley problem, dual-process theory of reasoning, tri-process theory of cognition

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