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Between a rock and a hard place: The role of moral intuitions and social distance in determining moral judgments of an agent in a moral dilemma


Hofer, Matthias; Tamborini, Ron; Ryffel, Fabian A (2021). Between a rock and a hard place: The role of moral intuitions and social distance in determining moral judgments of an agent in a moral dilemma. Journal of Media Psychology, 33(3):103-112.

Abstract

Applying logic from both the model of intuitive morality and exemplars and construal level theory, we examined the impact of baseline moral intuition salience and social distance on the moral judgment of a narrative character confronted with a moral dilemma. After completing a measure of baseline intuition salience, participants in an experiment first read an article about a fighter pilot who shot down a plane and then judged the pilot’s actions as morally right or wrong. The article indicated that the plane had been hijacked by a terrorist who wanted to let it crash into a nearby stadium, and that the pilot shot down the plane to save the spectators in the stadium. Participants were randomly assigned to read the article either as if they were the pilot (social distance low) or as objectively as possible (social distance high). Results showed that baseline intuition salience and social distance interacted in determining moral judgment. Finally, moral judgment predicted whether participants would find the pilot guilty or not. In a second study using the same design as in the first study, we ensured that readers focused on different aspects of the dilemma depending on social distance.

Abstract

Applying logic from both the model of intuitive morality and exemplars and construal level theory, we examined the impact of baseline moral intuition salience and social distance on the moral judgment of a narrative character confronted with a moral dilemma. After completing a measure of baseline intuition salience, participants in an experiment first read an article about a fighter pilot who shot down a plane and then judged the pilot’s actions as morally right or wrong. The article indicated that the plane had been hijacked by a terrorist who wanted to let it crash into a nearby stadium, and that the pilot shot down the plane to save the spectators in the stadium. Participants were randomly assigned to read the article either as if they were the pilot (social distance low) or as objectively as possible (social distance high). Results showed that baseline intuition salience and social distance interacted in determining moral judgment. Finally, moral judgment predicted whether participants would find the pilot guilty or not. In a second study using the same design as in the first study, we ensured that readers focused on different aspects of the dilemma depending on social distance.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Applied Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Applied Psychology, Communication, Social Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 July 2021
Deposited On:29 Jan 2021 15:34
Last Modified:31 Jul 2021 01:04
Publisher:Hogrefe & Huber
ISSN:1864-1105
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-1105/a000284

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