What is it about?

In this research, we examined people’s responses to moral dilemmas such as the “trolley problem” in which people decide between an utilitarian option (sacrificing a few to facilitate the greater good of many) versus a Kantian option (following moral rules and sacrificing none). We suggest that past research has overlooked a natural tendency that people might have when confronted with a moral dilemma: asking others for their advice on what to do. As put by the authors of The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice, “seeking and giving advice are central to effective leadership and decision making” (Garvin & Margolis, 2015), yet research says little about what advice people give others in response to their moral dilemmas. In our studies, we found that advice people give others is more Kantian than what people choose for themselves.

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Why is it important?

Our findings have consequences for diverse areas in which people are confronted with real-world, high-stakes moral dilemmas, and in turn ask for (and receive and use) advice from others—such as in business, policy, research, and personal relationships

Perspectives

Research has long examined people’s responses to moral dilemmas. Here, we suggest past research has overlooked a common tendency that people have when confronted with a moral dilemma: asking others for their advice.

Evan Polman
University of Wisconsin Madison

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This page is a summary of: Making utilitarian choices but giving deontological advice., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, February 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xge0001194.
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