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If you’re going to do wrong, at least do it right: The surprising effect of considering two moral dilemmas at the same time

Barak-Corren, N; Tsay, C; Cushman, F; Bazerman, M; (2018) If you’re going to do wrong, at least do it right: The surprising effect of considering two moral dilemmas at the same time. Management Science , 64 (4) pp. 1528-1540. 10.1287/mnsc.2016.2659. Green open access

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Abstract

We study how people reconcile conflicting moral intuitions by juxtaposing two versions of classic moral problems: the trolley problem and the footbridge problem. When viewed separately, most people favor action in the former and disapprove of action in the latter, despite identical consequences. The difference is often explained in terms of the intention principle – whether the consequences are intended or incidental. Our results suggest that when the two problems are considered together, a different judgment emerges: participants reject the intention principle and embrace either the principle of utilitarianism, which favors action in both problems, or the action principle, which rejects action in both problems. In subsequent studies, we find that when required to choose between two harmful actions, people prefer the action that saves more lives, despite its being more aversive. Our findings shed light on the formation of moral judgment under normative conflict, the conditions for preference reversal, and the potential polarization of moral judgment under joint evaluation. Organizational implications are discussed.

Type: Article
Title: If you’re going to do wrong, at least do it right: The surprising effect of considering two moral dilemmas at the same time
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2016.2659
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2016.2659
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017, INFORMS.
Keywords: Joint evaluation; preference reversal; normative conflict; moral judgment; deontology; utilitarianism; action principle; intention principle
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > UCL School of Management
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1526369
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