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What we say and what we do: The relationship between real and hypothetical moral choices

FeldmanHall, Oriel and Mobbs, Dean and Evans, Davy and Hiscox, Lucy and Navrady, Lauren and Dalgleish, Tim (2012) What we say and what we do: The relationship between real and hypothetical moral choices. Cognition, 123 (3). pp. 434-441. ISSN 0010-0277. PMCID PMC3355304. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.02.001.

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Moral ideals are strongly ingrained within society and individuals alike, but actual moral choices are profoundly influenced by tangible rewards and consequences. Across two studies we show that real moral decisions can dramatically contradict moral choices made in hypothetical scenarios (Study 1). However, by systematically enhancing the contextual information available to subjects when addressing a hypothetical moral problem—thereby reducing the opportunity for mental simulation—we were able to incrementally bring subjects’ responses in line with their moral behaviour in real situations (Study 2). These results imply that previous work relying mainly on decontextualized hypothetical scenarios may not accurately reflect moral decisions in everyday life. The findings also shed light on contextual factors that can alter how moral decisions are made, such as the salience of a personal gain.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:© 2012 Elsevier B.V. Open Access under CC BY 3.0 license. Received 23 August 2011. Revised 2 February 2012. Accepted 2 February 2012. Available online 9 March 2012.
Subject Keywords:Morality; Real moral decision-making; Contextual information; Motivational factors
Issue or Number:3
PubMed Central ID:PMC3355304
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180305-070237524
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Official Citation:Oriel FeldmanHall, Dean Mobbs, Davy Evans, Lucy Hiscox, Lauren Navrady, Tim Dalgleish, What we say and what we do: The relationship between real and hypothetical moral choices, Cognition, Volume 123, Issue 3, 2012, Pages 434-441, ISSN 0010-0277, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:85081
Deposited On:05 Mar 2018 22:35
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:25

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