Moral dilemmas in cognitive neuroscience of moral decision-making: A principled review

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  • Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 36 (2012) 12491264

    Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

    Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

    jou rna l h omepa ge: www.elsev ier .com/ locate /neubiorev

    Review

    Moral dA princ

    J.F. ChrisHuman EvolutiColonya, 07122

    a r t i c l

    Article history:Received 31 AReceived in reAccepted 6 Feb

    Keywords:Moral dilemmMoral decisionMoral judgmeMoral psycholNeuroethics

    Contents

    1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12501.1. 1.2.

    2. Ration3. Dilem

    3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.4. 3.5. 3.6. 3.7. 3.8. 3.9.

    4. The ex4.1. 4.2. 4.3. 4.4.

    5. Dilem5.1. 5.2.

    CorresponTel.: +34 971 2

    0149-7634/$ doi:10.1016/j.The context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1250Moral dilemma research to date . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1250ale behind a moral dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1251ma formulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1252Presentation format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1252Expression style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1253Word framing effects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1253Word number count . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1254Participant perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1254Situational antecedent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1255Order of presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1255Type of question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1255Justications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1256perimental participant and her relatedness to the story characters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1256Demographic variables of the participant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1256In/outgroup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1256Kinship/friendship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1259Speciesism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1259

    ma conceptualization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1259Intentionality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1259Kind of transgression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1260

    ding author at: University of the Balearic Islands, University Campus, Department of Psychology, Building: Guillem Cifre de Colonya, 07122 Palma, Spain.5 9777; fax: +34 971 173190.

    see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.neubiorev.2012.02.008ilemmas in cognitive neuroscience of moral decision-making:ipled review

    tensen , A. Gomilaon and Cognition, Associated Unit to the IFISC (CSIC-UIB), Department of Psychology, University of the Balearic Islands, University Campus, Building: Guillem Cifre de

    Palma, Spain

    e i n f o

    ugust 2011vised form 12 January 2012ruary 2012

    as-makingntogy

    a b s t r a c t

    Moral dilemma tasks have been a much appreciated experimental paradigm in empirical studies on moralcognition for decades and have, more recently, also become a preferred paradigm in the eld of cogni-tive neuroscience of moral decision-making. Yet, studies using moral dilemmas suffer from two mainshortcomings: they lack methodological homogeneity which impedes reliable comparisons of resultsacross studies, thus making a metaanalysis manifestly impossible; and second, they overlook controlof relevant design parameters. In this paper, we review from a principled standpoint the studies thatuse moral dilemmas to approach the psychology of moral judgment and its neural underpinnings. Wepresent a systematic review of 19 experimental design parameters that can be identied in moral dilem-mas. Accordingly, our analysis establishes a methodological basis for the required homogeneity betweenstudies and suggests the consideration of experimental aspects that have not yet received much attentiondespite their relevance.

    2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  • 1250 J.F. Christensen, A. Gomila / Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 36 (2012) 12491264

    5.3. Directness of harm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12605.4. The trade-off . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12605.5. Normality of harm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12605.6. Certainty of events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1261

    6. Schem . . . . . .7. Concl . . . . . .

    7.1. . . . . . .7.2. . . . . . .Ackno . . . . . .Refer . . . . . .

    . . .the uchology differentorder to to the ou

    1. Introdu

    1.1. The con

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    It is clestudy real-l(an analysithroughoutConversely,mas providfoundationacognition. judgment ghave shownindividual e(smotherinothers was protagonistfound thembaby if . . .?

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    pastlogylleagthat studn-ment tHaidtatic overview of 25 studies in relation to the 19 design parameters . . . . . . usion and discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Future directions: a theoretical framework for working hypotheses . . . . . wledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    ences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    se of articial moral dilemmas to explore our moral psy-is like the use of theoretical or statistical models with

    parameters; parameters can be added or subtracted indetermine which parameters contribute most signicantlytput. (Hauser et al., 2007)

    ction

    text

    ng press release in a daily newspaper informs the well-ublic of a terrible incident in a foreign war-sweptparently rebel troops assaulted a little village on thenemy soldiers and recklessly killed also innocent civil-ened, the village inhabitants had hidden together ins so not all had been found and killed. When the

    nally left, however, it turned out that one of the womenred her baby. She had been trying to keep it quiet so itsnt give away her groups hiding place to the soldiers,

    have killed them all on the spot.rible stories about real-life scenarios where people areake moral decisions about life and death, icker over ourvery day. Or, they are brought to us by the radio, via theen checking our emails, or by friends who tell us aboute heard. Confronted with this kind of information, wetely have feelings about it, and we make judgments ofd reproach. Some of us may even be asking ourselves,

    I have done in her place? Of course we then happily rec- lucky we are not having to make such moral decisionsfe and death.t if one is taken to a cognitive neuroscience laboratoryhe same question? Would you. . .? In the quest for thel principles of human moral cognition, cognitive sci-

    done exactly this: asked experimental participants tomorally dilemmatic situations.ar that this experimental set-up does not allow toife-or-death decisions, but this is not the intention heres of real-life decisions made in dilemmatic situations

    the turmoils of the 20th century would serve that goal). moral judgments of hypothetical real-life moral dilem-e the cognitive scientist with valuable insight into thel psychological processes that underlie human moral

    Thus, considering the example above, human moralenerally deems it wrong to kill a baby, but experiments

    involv(Heekesentenmoral tor or et al., 2they ption thapproaunder approaual parwhen experisome mbrusqusufcea diffeabove,als evconicmoral experi

    Condilemmet al., tors trithe fouand GrThis apreal-lifpsycho

    1.2. M

    ThePsychohis codence many decisiojudgm2001; that there are many variables that inuence how anventually judges a moral transgression such as this oneg the baby). What if the person to sacrice to save thenot a baby, but a fellow adult? A foreigner? What if the

    (here the mother) would not be killed if the soldiers, only the men in the group? Would you smoother yourAnd so forth.omp...