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Order effects in moral judgment

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Explaining moral intuitions is one of the hot topics of recent cognitive science. In the present article we focus on a factor that attracted surprisingly little attention so far, namely the temporal order in which moral scenarios are presented. We argue that previous research points to a systematic pattern of order effects that has been overlooked until now: only judgments of actions that are normally regarded as morally acceptable are susceptible to be affected by the order of presentation, and this in turn is only the case if the dilemma is immediately preceded by a dilemma in which the proposed action was considered as not morally acceptable. We conducted an experiment that largely confirmed this pattern and allowed us to analyze by what individual level responses it was generated. We argue that investigating order effects is necessary for approaching a complete descriptive moral theory. Furthermore, we discuss the implications of these findings for moral philosophy.

Keywords: Experimental Philosophy; Moral Intuitions; Order Effects; Trolley Dilemmas

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2012

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