Thou shalt not kill, unless it is not a human: Target dehumanization may influence decision difficulty and response patters for moral dilemmas

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Abstract

Past research on moral dilemmas has thoroughly investigated the roles of personality and situational variables, but the role of targets in moral dilemmas has been relatively neglected. This article presents findings from four experiments that manipulated the perceived dehumanization of targets in moral dilemmas. Findings from Studies 1, 2, and 4 suggest that dehumanized targets may render the decision easier, and with less emotion. Findings from Studies 1 and 3, though not Studies 2 and 4, showed that dehumanization of targets in dilemmas may lead participants to make less deontological judgments. Findings from Study 3, but not Study 4, suggest that the effects of dehumanization manipulation on decision choices are potentially due to reduced deontological, but not utilitarian judgments. Though the patterns are somewhat inconsistent across the studies, overall, results suggest that targets' dehumanization can play a role in how people make their decisions in moral dilemmas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-686
Number of pages30
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume39
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Guilford Publications, Inc.

Keywords

  • Decision making
  • Dehumanization
  • Emotion
  • Moral dilemmas

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