Miguel Garcia Barretto & Dean Gerard Dulay

In search of our moral compass: Magnitudes, probabilities, and frames in moral judgments

1
save 5”)

Introduction
MOTIVATION

2
START

Experiment
Task Problems Profile Questions MORAL DILEMMA (Participant: Actor) INTENTIONAL ACTION (Participant: Observer) END

Task Instructions

 Garcia Barretto (2013) found equivalent results of the Trolley Problem when framed in terms of intentional action dilemmas (Knobe, 2003):
 MORALLY ACCEPTABLE = INTENTION TO SAVE in lever scenario (“Pull lever to save 5”)  MORALLY UNACCEPTABLE = BLAMEWORTHY in footbridge scenario (“Push large man to

 Greene et al. (2001) suggested that utilitarian situations (lever) are derived from cognitive processes while deontological situations (footbridge) involve emotional processes  Knobe (2003) conjectured about the existence of moral intuition in intentional action  Issues sought to clarify in this paper:
 MORAL REFERENCE POINT: Moral choices of self versus others (Knobe, 2003)  TASK REF. POINT: Probabilities & number of lives to save (Shenhav & Greene, 2010)  FRAMING : Probabilities of survival or death (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981)

Workers in Room A

Probability of Survival

Workers in Room A

Probability of Survival

10
Morally Unacceptable

25%
Morally Acceptable

15

90%

How morally acceptable is it to block the vent to save the workers?

To what degree did the building manager intentionally save the workers?
Unintentional Intentional

123 4 56

123 4 56

 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN combines Garcia Barretto‟s (2013) framing of the Trolley problem as the Knobe effect with magnitudes and probabilities from Shenhav and Greene (2010)

Help of Harm

Survival or Death Probability of Survival

QUESTIONS
 Do people base their moral judgments on the number of lives to save or the likelihood the victims can survive on their own?  How sensitive are moral judgments to positive and negative frames?  How does „self‟ own moral judgments inform our moral judgments on others?

+ –

To what degree did the building manager intentionally save the workers? To what degree did the building manager intentionally kill the 1 other worker?

25%
Probability of remaining trapped

75%

Magnitude of people to save
2 3 10 15 25 40

Probability Positive Frame
5 10 25 50 90 95

Probability Negative Frame
95 90 75 50 10 5

 SAMPLE: 113 participants (74 M, 39 F) (AGES 17 - 32, MEAN: 23 years)  TASK: 14 moral dilemma questions from 5 equivalent trolley scenarios  MODIFICATIONS: Variations of magnitude of victims and the probabilities that victims can escape or not  8 Intentional Action (TREATMENT), 6 Moral Choice (CONTROL) questions  MAGNITUDES, PROBABILITIES & QUESTION SET ORDERS randomly distributed  6 QUESTION FRAMES (TREATMENT) Help-Survive, Help-Death Harm-Survive, Harm-Death (CONTROL) Moral-Survive, Moral-Death

3
6

 TOTAL 1,767 JUDGMENTS COLLECTED

Results
POSITIVE FRAME
Mean degree of moral acceptability / intention 6

NEGATIVE FRAME

PROBABILITIES

4
10 5

5

4

4

5

Discussion

 PROBABILITY seems to drive moral decisions in the task dilemmas. Probability is bounded

5

10

25 50 Probability of Survival

90 Intention to Save

95

95

90

75 50 Probability of Dying 𝑝

∈ 0,1 . On the other hand, the number of lives to save is ambiguous since it is unbounded, 𝑚 ∈ 0, ∞ ; this data ambiguity makes it easier for people to assign arbitrary perceptions in judgments. In contrast, individuals have a clearer gauge on the boundary of probabilities.
 FRAMING EFFECTS matter in strengthening the force of the moral judgment, but it does not

3

2

Mean degree of moral acceptability / intention

Mean degree of moral acceptability / intention

Moral Acceptability Intention to Kill 1

2

3

Moral Acceptability Intention to Kill 1

6

MAGNITUDES

5

6

5

5

6

Intention to Save

change its trajectory. Thus, our initial moral principles are insensitive to frames.  Using probabilities to inform moral judgments counters with standard behavioral economics (Kahneman, 2011), but neither does this support rational choice theory. MEAN DECISION TIMES show people answering faster over rounds, indicating that decisions made are automatic. This supports Slovic et al. (2004) that affect pushes individuals to „act‟ rationally.
 WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OUR OWN MORALS & OUR MORALS ON OTHERS?

4

4

3

3

2

2

2

3

10 15 95 Number of lives to be saved Moral Acceptability Intention to Kill 1

25 90

40 75 50 2 Probability of Dying

2

3

4

10

3

15 5 10 Number of lives to be saved

25

40

Intention to Save Moral Acceptability Intention to Kill 1

Moral Acceptability Intention to Save Intention to Kill 1

Intention to Save

1. Do people base their moral judgments on magnitude or probability?
The upper two row graphs on probabilities show that intention to help (save lives) and harm (kill 1) are moving in the intended opposing directions: the more we believe the other person intended to kill the 1 other person, the less we believe that the same person will save the rest. But, we do not see a consistent pattern for magnitude (bottom two graphs) with only 10 and 40 lives to be correct. We checked using Tobit regressions (Tables 1 and 2) and found that probability is robust throughout almost all help-harm and positive-negative frames.

We tend to be kinder to others when the task is praiseworthy, but just as harsh to ourselves when it is blameworthy. Mean difference between our own morals and intention to save is statistically significant (𝑑 = −0.938, 𝑝 = 0.000) but not our own morals and intention to harm (𝑑 = −0.132, 𝑝 = 0.165).  Using probability as a reference point, we can infer that moral judgments drive our judgments on intentional action. This shows how our choice of information strongly signals human behavior (Garcia Barretto, Soto and Spath, 2013).

2. How sensitive are moral judgments to positive or negative frames?
In terms of probability, the frames do not appear to change the trajectory of moral decisions—either as own moral judgments or judgments on intentions—but it changes the slope: negative frames pull the slope of intention to save judgments downward and push intention to harm upward. Our Tobit regressions were able to capture the effects of these slope changes as the coefficients have become more amplified than in the positive frame. TABLE 1. Tobit regression results on mean acceptability (Positive Frame) Variables Save Kill 1 Save Kill 1 Save 0.0247** -0.0200 0.0268** -0.0257** 0.0145 MAGNITUDE (0.0122) (0.0123) (0.0119) (0.0130) (0.0187) 0.0120* PROBABILITY 0.0158*** -0.00359 0.0162*** -0.00424 (0.00404) (0.00516) (0.00399) (0.00522) (0.00632)
Interaction Controls N N N N N Y N Y Y Y

Kill 1 -0.0317 (0.0250) -0.00668 (0.0102)
Y Y

5

Selected References

Obs. Dec.

223

200

216

172

216

172

TABLE 2. Tobit regression results on mean acceptability (Negative Frame) Variables Save Kill 1 Save Kill 1 0.0360*** -0.0143 0.0301** -0.00896 MAGNITUDE (0.0129) (0.0136) (0.0133) (0.0134) PROBABILITY -0.0151*** 0.0220*** -0.0153*** 0.0220*** (0.00496) (0.00426) (0.00510) (0.00408)
Interaction Controls N N N N N Y N Y

Save Kill 1 0.0327 -0.0264 (0.0199) (0.0189) -0.0143* 0.0153** (0.00768) (0.00647)
Y Y Y Y

Obs. Dec.

216

269

190

240

190

240

 Garcia Barretto, M. A. (2013) “The intuition of intentional action: The trolley problem through the lens of the Knobe effect.” Unpublished Manuscript.  Garcia Barretto, M., Soto, P., and Spath, S. (2013) “Information as choice in decisions under ambiguity” Masters thesis project. Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.  Knobe, J. (2003) “Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language.” Analysis 63: 190-193.  Shenhav, A. and Greene, J. D. (2010) “Moral judgments recruit domain-general valuation mechanisms to integrate representations of probability and magnitude.” Neuron 67: 667-677.  Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D. (1981) “The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice.” Science 211(4481): 453-463.

Contact:

Miguel Garcia Barretto miguel.garcia@barcelonagse.eu

Dean Gerard Dulay dean.dulay@barcelonagse.eu

12 E017 Experimental Economics Professor Christiane Schiewren

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