Moral pluralism on the trolley tracks: Different normative principles are used for different reasons in justifying moral judgments.

Aktaş B., Yilmaz O., Bahçekapili H. G.

JUDGMENT AND DECISION MAKING, vol.0, no.0, 2017 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 0 Issue: 0
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


The psychological correlates of utilitarian choices in sacrificial moral dilemmas are contentious. In the literature, some research (Greene, et al., 2001) suggested that utilitarianism requires analytic thinking while other research (Kahane et al., 2015) showed that utilitarianism is correlated with psychopathy. In the present research, we looked at the relation of several normative views with analytic cognitive style (ACS), psychopathy and real-world utilitarianism in three Turkish samples. In Study 1 (n = 269), we used four ethical dilemmas and asked participants to select one normative principle as the grounds for their judgment in the dilemma: fatalism, virtue ethics, utilitarianism, deontology and amoralism. The results showed that the majority selected the deontological principle. Additionally, there was a considerable amount of fatalistic and virtue ethical justifications. Utilitarianism and psychopathy had a significant positive correlation. In Study 2 (n = 246), we replicated Study 1 and showed a significant relation between ACS and moral minimalism (the view that the sacrificial act is permissible but not necessary). In Study 3, the results showed that the utilitarian option in the sacrificial dilemmas was positively correlated with both real-life utilitarianism and psychopathy, but the latter two variables were not correlated with each other. All in all, the results suggest that some people choose the utilitarian option in moral dilemmas from psychopathic tendencies (as Kahane argued), while others due to real-life utilitarian reasons (as Greene argued). The findings also indicate that virtue ethical and fatalistic justifications cannot be ignored in understanding lay people’s moral judgments.