Efficient kill-save ratios ease up the cognitive demands on counterintuitive moral utilitarianism


The dual-process model of moral judgment postulates that utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas (e.g., accepting to kill one to save five) are demanding of cognitive resources. Here we show that utilitarian responses can become effortless, even when they involve to kill someone, as long as the kill–save ratio is efficient (e.g., 1 is killed to save 500). In Experiment 1, participants responded to moral dilemmas featuring different kill–save ratios under high or low cognitive load. In Experiments 2 and 3, participants responded at their own pace or under time pressure. Efficient kill–save ratios promoted utilitarian responding and neutered the effect of load or time pressure. We discuss whether this effect is more easily explained by a parallel-activation model or by a default-interventionist model.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist