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Contemporary morality: moral judgments in digital contexts

Barque-Duran, A., Pothos, E. M., Hampton, J. A. & Yearsley, J. (2017). Contemporary morality: moral judgments in digital contexts. Computers in Human Behavior, 75(Oct), pp. 184-193.


Nowadays, several of the situations in which we have to make decisions are in digital form. In a first experiment (N=1010) we showed that people’s moral judgments depend on the Digital Context (Smartphone vs. PC) in which a dilemma is presented, becoming more utilitarian (vs. deontological) when using Smartphones in high conflict moral dilemmas. To provide additional evidence, we ran a second (N=250) and a third experiment (N=300), where we introduced time constraints and we manipulated time instructions. Our results provide an extended perspective on Dual-Process Models of Moral Judgment, as we showed that the use of smartphones, often assumed to be hurried which would be consistent with gut-feeling decision-making, increased the likelihood of utilitarian responses and decreased deontological ones. We suggest that the increase in utilitarian judgments is a result of inducing high construal, increasing psychological distance and giving rise to an abstract representation of actions. A fourth experiment (N=1211), where we measured psychological distance, provided some first evidence for our hypotheses. This is one of the first studies to look at the impact of the digital age on moral judgments and the results presented have consequences for understanding moral choice in our increasingly virtualized world.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: moral judgment, behavioural ethics, decision-making, human-computer interaction
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
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