Cognitive Load Selectively Interferes with Utilitarian Moral Judgment

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Cognitive Load Selectively Interferes with Utilitarian Moral Judgment

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Title: Cognitive Load Selectively Interferes with Utilitarian Moral Judgment
Author: Nystrom, Leigh E.; Morelli, Sylvia A.; Cohen, Jonathan; Greene, Joshua; Morelli, Sylvia A.

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Citation: Greene, Joshua D., Sylvia A. Morelli, Kelly Lowenberg, Leigh E. Nvstrom, and Jonathan D. Cohen. 2008. Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition 107(3): 1144-1154.
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Abstract: Traditional theories of moral development emphasize the role of controlled cognition in mature moral judgment, while a more recent trend emphasizes intuitive and emotional processes. Here we test a dual-process theory synthesizing these perspectives. More specifically, our theory associates utilitarian moral judgment (approving of harmful actions that maximize good consequences) with controlled cognitive processes and associates non-utilitarian moral judgment with automatic emotional responses. Consistent with this theory, we find that a cognitive load manipulation selectively interferes with utilitarian judgment. This interference effect provides direct evidence for the influence of controlled cognitive processes in moral judgment, and utilitarian moral judgment more specifically.
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