When faced with moral dilemmas, do we do what is ethically right or what is mentally easy?

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The literature on how people solve moral dilemmas often focuses on situations in which individuals have to make a decision where different moral rules are in conflict. In some of these situations, such as in footbridge dilemmas, people have to choose between sacrificing a few people in order to save many. The present research focuses on how people decide what to do in dilemmas involving conflicting moral rules. We propose that the rule that is cognitively most accessible during the decision making process (e.g., “Save lives” or “Do not kill”) will influence how people solve these moral dilemmas. Three studies are reported that indeed demonstrate that the most accessible rule influences willingness to intervene within footbridge dilemmas. This effect is found even when the accessibility of the rule is induced subliminally.

Source: “Should I save or should I not kill? How people solve moral dilemmas depends on which rule is most accessible” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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