The Refugees' Dilemma: not all deontological moral choices are of the same kind


The focus of the present work concerns the nature of deontological decisions. We test the hypothesis that it is possible to specify deontological moral choices based on an unemotional rule, norm or principle and that such moral choices can be distinguished from emotion-driven ones. Using a novel paradigm for moral choice that we call The Refugees’ Dilemma, we provide evidence for such a rule- based route to moral choice. We show that participants with high scores in a Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) were more likely to adopt utilitarian or rule-based responses, as opposed to emotional ones. We also found that rule-based respondents reported the highest average psychological distance, more so that even utilitarian respondents. These findings show how emotional and rule-based influences can be separated with the appropriate scenario and challenges the approach of assuming both influences can be combined into a single deontological route in dual-process models.

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