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The role of moral utility in decision making: an interdisciplinary framework


Tobler, Philippe N; Kalis, A; Kalenscher, T (2008). The role of moral utility in decision making: an interdisciplinary framework. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 8(4):390-401.

Abstract

What decisions should we make? Moral values, rules, and virtues provide standards for morally acceptable decisions, without prescribing how we should reach them. However, moral theories do assume that we are, at least in principle, capable of making the right decisions. Consequently, an empirical investigation of the methods and resources we use for making moral decisions becomes relevant. We consider theoretical parallels of economic decision theory and moral utilitarianism and suggest that moral decision making may tap into mechanisms and processes that have originally evolved for nonmoral decision making. For example, the computation of reward value occurs through the combination of probability and magnitude; similar computation might also be used for determining utilitarian moral value. Both nonmoral and moral decisions may resort to intuitions and heuristics. Learning mechanisms implicated in the assignment of reward value to stimuli, actions, and outcomes may also enable us to determine moral value and assign it to stimuli, actions, and outcomes. In conclusion, we suggest that moral capabilities can employ and benefit from a variety of nonmoral decision-making and learning mechanisms.

Abstract

What decisions should we make? Moral values, rules, and virtues provide standards for morally acceptable decisions, without prescribing how we should reach them. However, moral theories do assume that we are, at least in principle, capable of making the right decisions. Consequently, an empirical investigation of the methods and resources we use for making moral decisions becomes relevant. We consider theoretical parallels of economic decision theory and moral utilitarianism and suggest that moral decision making may tap into mechanisms and processes that have originally evolved for nonmoral decision making. For example, the computation of reward value occurs through the combination of probability and magnitude; similar computation might also be used for determining utilitarian moral value. Both nonmoral and moral decisions may resort to intuitions and heuristics. Learning mechanisms implicated in the assignment of reward value to stimuli, actions, and outcomes may also enable us to determine moral value and assign it to stimuli, actions, and outcomes. In conclusion, we suggest that moral capabilities can employ and benefit from a variety of nonmoral decision-making and learning mechanisms.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
08 University Research Priority Programs > Foundations of Human Social Behavior: Altruism and Egoism
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:27 Oct 2011 13:14
Last Modified:18 Feb 2018 11:21
Publisher:Psychonomic Society
ISSN:1530-7026
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.8.4.390
PubMed ID:19033237

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