On Unconscious Morality: The Effects of Unconscious Thinking on Moral Decision Making
Social Cognition, Vol 28(1), Feb 2010, 74-83
By Jaap Ham and Kees van den Bos
Abstract: In this article, we argue that when making moral decisions, unconscious thought can lead to more utilitarian moral decisions (approving of harmful actions that maximize good consequences), compared to conscious thought and immediate decision making. Therefore, we presented participants with a complex version of the well-known footbridge dilemma. In immediate decision conditions, participants made decisions what to do in this dilemma immediately. In conscious thought conditions, participants consciously thought about what to do for 3 minutes and then made their decisions. In unconscious thought conditions, participants were distracted for 3 minutes, and next made their decisions. As expected, participants who thought unconsciously about the dilemma were more willing to make utilitarian decisions than participants who thought consciously or who made an immediate decision. The current findings provide a new perspective on the social psychology of moral decision making and further insight into unconscious thinking.
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