Faculty Articles

Title

Are thoughtful people more utilitarian? CRT as a unique predictor of moral minimalism in the dilemmatic context

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Publication Title

Cognitive Science

ISSN

1551-6709

Volume

39

Issue/No.

2

Abstract

Recent theorizing about the cognitive underpinnings of dilemmatic moral judgment has equated slow, deliberative thinking with the utilitarian disposition and fast, automatic thinking with the deontological disposition. However, evidence for the reflective utilitarian hypothesis—the hypothesized link between utilitarian judgment and individual differences in the capacity for rational reflection (gauged here by the Cognitive Reflection Test [CRT; Frederick, 2005]) has been inconsistent and difficult to interpret in light of several design flaws. In two studies aimed at addressing some of the flaws, we found robust evidence for a reflective minimalist hypothesis—high CRT performers’ tendency to regard utility‐optimizing acts as largely a matter of personal prerogative, permissible both to perform and to leave undone. This relationship between CRT and the “minimalist” orientation remained intact after controlling for age, sex, trait affect, social desirability, and educational attainment. No significant association was found between CRT and the strict utilitarian response pattern or CRT and the strict deontological response pattern, nor did we find any significant association between CRT and willingness to act in the utility‐optimizing manner. However, we found an inverse association between empathic concern and a willingness to act in the utility‐optimizing manner, but there was no comparable association between empathic concern and the deontological judgment pattern. Theoretical, methodological, and normative implications of the findings are discussed.

DOI

10.1111/cogs.12136

Peer Reviewed

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