Low Levels of Empathic Concern Predict Utilitarian Moral Judgment

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Is it permissible to harm one to save many? Classic moral<br />dilemmas are often defined by the conflict between a<br />putatively rational response to maximize aggregate welfare<br />(i.e., the utilitarian judgment) and an emotional aversion to<br />harm (i.e., the non-utilitarian judgment). Here, we address<br />two questions. First, what specific aspect of emotional<br />responding is relevant for these judgments? Second, is this<br />aspect of emotional responding selectively reduced in<br />utilitarians or enhanced in non-utilitarians? The results<br />reveal a key relationship between moral judgment and empathic<br />concern in particular (i.e., feelings of warmth and compassion<br />in response to someone in distress). Utilitarian participants<br />showed significantly reduced empathic concern on an<br />independent empathy measure. These findings therefore reveal<br />diminished empathic concern in utilitarian moral judges.




Gleichgerrcht, E., & Young, L. (2013). Low Levels of Empathic Concern Predict Utilitarian Moral Judgment. PLoS ONE, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0060418

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