Short-Term Retention, Time Pressure, and Accessibility Tasks Do Not Interfere with Utilitarian Moral Judgment
Houston III, Charles Joseph
MetadataShow full item record
CitationHouston III, Charles Joseph. 2010. Short-Term Retention, Time Pressure, and Accessibility Tasks Do Not Interfere with Utilitarian Moral Judgment. Master's thesis, Harvard University, Extension School.
AbstractGreene's Dual-Process Theory proposes that human moral judgment is the product of two sometimes competing neural processes: an automatic affective process favoring deontological judgments, and a controlled cognitive process favoring utilitarian judgments. The latter should be susceptible to interference from competing tasks (increased cognitive load). A series of four online experiments were conducted using three different cognitive tasks predicted to selectively interfere with utilitarian judgments in hypothetical dilemmas (Greene et al., 2008). An accessibility task (reading explanations of competing philosophical schools of thought) used in Experiments 1, 2, and 3 had no discernible effect on participant judgments. A short-term retention (STR) memory task (memorizing up to nine characters) used in Experiments 1 and 2 did not significantly interfere with the frequency or speed of utilitarian judgments. A time-pressure task (forcing a judgment in 8 seconds or less) used in Experiments 3 and 4 also did not significantly interfere with the frequency of utilitarian judgments. Instead, systematic non-significant increases in utilitarian responding were observed in all four experiments. Evidence from the working memory literature suggesting that STR tasks do not preferentially recruit the dorsolateral prefrontal/anterior cingulate (DLPFC/ACC) cortical networks previously shown to mediate utilitarian moral judgment (Greene et al., 2004) is discussed. Reciprocal suppression of regional cerebral blood flow (Drevets & Raichle, 1998) is proposed as a potential mechanism for producing the non-significant, but systematic increases in the frequency of utilitarian responding observed in all four experiments. I speculate about how appraisal theory might integrate with Greene's theory, and propose the alexithymia construct as a future research tool. The paper concludes with a brief synopsis of the ten key observations made in the study.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367557
- DCE Theses and Dissertations