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Rationality and Moral Judgment:
A view from moral psychology
Simon Laham
University of Melbourne
Heart and Head
Effective altruism: Heart and head
Moral psychology: Heart and head
System 1 and System 2 processes
Dual process morality
(Greene et al., 2001; Greene, 2007)
(cf. Kahane et al., 2015)
The head is less important than you
may think
MJDM is driven by a variety of factors:
– Emotions (e.g., Valdesolo & DeSten...
Another concern…
Not only do people inconsistently apply rationality
in moral judgments, many reject the idea that
consequ...
Another route to an effective EA
Is trying to change people’s minds the best way
to expand the EA movement?
Moral judgment...
Trolleys
Other contextual factors:
– Temporarily accessible rules (Broeders et al.,
2011)
– Wording (Petrinovich & O’Neill...
Beyond trolleys
Identifiable victim effect
(Small & Loewenstein, 2003)
Single vs. joint evaluation
and preference reversal...
Decision framing and the moral circle
Moral circle as psychological category
Malleable? Consequences?
Decision framing and...
Mindset, circle size and consequences
Mindset
Inclusion Exclusion
Study 1a (N = 30) 65 82 t(28) = 3.08, p < 0.01, d = 1.13...
Ease of retrieval and the moral circle
Availability heuristic (Tversky and Kahneman,1973)
“ease with which instances or as...
‘Practical’ take-home
Things beside rationality matter in morality
People believe that things beside rationality
should ma...
Rationality & Moral Judgement – Simon Laham - EA Global Melbourne 2015
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Rationality & Moral Judgement – Simon Laham - EA Global Melbourne 2015

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What have we learned from an empirical approach to moral psychology - especially in relation to the role of rationality in most every day morality?
What are some lessons that the EA movement can take from moral psychology?
Various moral theorists over the years have had different emphasis on the roles that the head and heart play in moral judgement. Early conceptions of the role of the head in morality were that it drives moral judgement. A Kantian might say that the head/reasoning drives moral judgement – when presented with a dillema of some kind, the human engages with ‘system 2’ like processes in a controlled rational nature. An advocate of a Humean model may favor the idea that emotion or the heart (‘system 1’ thinking) plays the dominant role in moral judgement. Modern psychologists often take a hybrid model where both system 1 and system 2 styles of thinking are at play in contributing to the way we judge right from wrong.
http://www.scifuture.org/rationality-moral-judgement-simon-laham/

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Rationality & Moral Judgement – Simon Laham - EA Global Melbourne 2015

  1. 1. Rationality and Moral Judgment: A view from moral psychology Simon Laham University of Melbourne
  2. 2. Heart and Head Effective altruism: Heart and head Moral psychology: Heart and head
  3. 3. System 1 and System 2 processes
  4. 4. Dual process morality (Greene et al., 2001; Greene, 2007) (cf. Kahane et al., 2015)
  5. 5. The head is less important than you may think MJDM is driven by a variety of factors: – Emotions (e.g., Valdesolo & DeSteno, 2006) – Values (e.g., Crone & Laham, 2015) – Relational and group membership concerns (e.g., Cikara et al., 2010) Across a wide range of studies, a majority of people do not consistently apply abstract moral principles – Moral judgments are not decontextualized, depersonalized and asocial (i.e., not System 2)
  6. 6. Another concern… Not only do people inconsistently apply rationality in moral judgments, many reject the idea that consequentialist rationality should have any place in the moral domain Appeals to consequentialist logic may backfire (Kreps and Monin, 2014) – People who give consequentialist justifications for their moral positions are viewed as less committed and less authentic
  7. 7. Another route to an effective EA Is trying to change people’s minds the best way to expand the EA movement? Moral judgment is subject to a variety of contextual effects Knowledge of such effects can be used to ‘nudge’ people towards utilitarianism (see Thaler & Sunstein, 2008)
  8. 8. Trolleys Other contextual factors: – Temporarily accessible rules (Broeders et al., 2011) – Wording (Petrinovich & O’Neill, 1996) – Order effects (e.g., Schwitzgebel & Cushman, 2012) – …
  9. 9. Beyond trolleys Identifiable victim effect (Small & Loewenstein, 2003) Single vs. joint evaluation and preference reversals (Kogut & Ritov, 2005) vs
  10. 10. Decision framing and the moral circle Moral circle as psychological category Malleable? Consequences? Decision framing and set reduction – Inclusion vs. exclusion mindsets Moral circle demarcation as set reduction Laham (2009). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
  11. 11. Mindset, circle size and consequences Mindset Inclusion Exclusion Study 1a (N = 30) 65 82 t(28) = 3.08, p < 0.01, d = 1.13. Study 1b (N = 65) 55 81 t(63) = 4.33, p < 0.01, d = 1.07. Study 2 (N = 49) 68 82 t(47) = 3.56, p < 0.01, d = 1.02. Condition 1=Exc. 0=Inc. Set-size Obligation to Outgroups 0.46** 0.32* 0.40** (0.25+) Laham (2009). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
  12. 12. Ease of retrieval and the moral circle Availability heuristic (Tversky and Kahneman,1973) “ease with which instances or associations come to mind” Declarative vs. experiential Ease vs. difficulty of retrieval (Schwarz et al., 1991) Moral circle and subjective ease Laham (2013). Social Psychology
  13. 13. ‘Practical’ take-home Things beside rationality matter in morality People believe that things beside rationality should matter So: – (a) present EA in a manner that does not trade utilitarian options off against deeply held values, identities, or emotions – (b) use decision framing techniques to ‘nudge’ people towards utilitarian choices

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