The Footbridge Dilemma Reflects More Utilitarian Thinking Than The Trolley Dilemma: Effect Of Number Of Victims In Moral Dilemmas


Previous studies on moral judgment have assumed that the trolley and footbridge dilemmas (Thomson, 1985) reflect utilitarian and deontologist thinking, respectively. However, on the basis of the “intervention myopia” hypothesis (Waldmann & Dieterich, 2007) and recent findings in analyses of moral dilemmas (Nakamura, 2011), the current study led a somewhat paradoxical prediction: An effect of the manipulation of the number of victims, considered a utilitarian aspect of moral dilemmas, is larger in the footbridge dilemma than in the trolley dilemma. In order to test this prediction, two experimental studies were conducted in which the number of victims in the trolley and footbridge dilemmas were manipulated. Results of the two studies consistently showed an interaction between the dilemma type and the number of victims, thereby indicating that the manipulation of the utilitarian aspect of moral dilemmas has more effect on the footbridge dilemma, which is believed to reflect deontologist thinking.

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