Event Title

Utilitarian Moral Reasoning in Adults and Adolescents

Location

Golden Eagles

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Utilitarian moral decision-making involves valuing the best outcome for a majority of people, even at the expense of a minority. For example, in the Trolley Dilemma, individuals are asked if they would actively sacrifice an individual's life to save the lives of 5 others by diverting a trolley cart. Much research has investigated factors involved in adults’ utilitarian decision-making, but very little research has investigated how adolescents make utilitarian moral decisions. Thus, the present study examines whether a number of factors related to adult utilitarian reasoning are also involved in adolescent utilitarian reasoning. In an online study, undergraduate and adolescent participants answered a series of moral dilemmas in which they can make utilitarian or non-utilitarian judgments. We also measured a number of individual factors previously known to be related to adult utilitarian reasoning including stress, empathy, religiosity, cognitive reflection, sibling relationships, and experience with Covid-19. Ongoing analyses investigate whether these factors are similarly related to adolescent utilitarian reasoning. These data will help us better understand the development of adolescent utilitarian moral reasoning. Moreover, knowledge of the factors that do and do not affect adolescent utilitarian moral reasoning may have real-world policy applications.

Faculty Sponsor

Andrew Young, Northeastern Illinois University

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May 6th, 9:00 AM

Utilitarian Moral Reasoning in Adults and Adolescents

Golden Eagles

Utilitarian moral decision-making involves valuing the best outcome for a majority of people, even at the expense of a minority. For example, in the Trolley Dilemma, individuals are asked if they would actively sacrifice an individual's life to save the lives of 5 others by diverting a trolley cart. Much research has investigated factors involved in adults’ utilitarian decision-making, but very little research has investigated how adolescents make utilitarian moral decisions. Thus, the present study examines whether a number of factors related to adult utilitarian reasoning are also involved in adolescent utilitarian reasoning. In an online study, undergraduate and adolescent participants answered a series of moral dilemmas in which they can make utilitarian or non-utilitarian judgments. We also measured a number of individual factors previously known to be related to adult utilitarian reasoning including stress, empathy, religiosity, cognitive reflection, sibling relationships, and experience with Covid-19. Ongoing analyses investigate whether these factors are similarly related to adolescent utilitarian reasoning. These data will help us better understand the development of adolescent utilitarian moral reasoning. Moreover, knowledge of the factors that do and do not affect adolescent utilitarian moral reasoning may have real-world policy applications.