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New study shows how your moral behavior can change depending on the context



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When it comes to making moral decisions, we often think of the golden rule: make it to others that you want them to do to you. But why we make such decisions has been widely discussed. Are we motivated by guilt feelings where we do not want to feel bad to let the other person fall down? Or in justice where we want to avoid uneven results? Some people can rely on principles of both guilt and justice and can change their moral rule depending on the circumstances, according to a study by Radboud University-Dartmouth College on moral decision making and collaboration. The results challenge previous research in economics, psychology and neuroscience, which is often based on the premise that people are motivated by a moral principle that remains constant over time. The study was recently published in Nature Communications .

"Our study shows that people with moral behavior may not always stick to the golden rule. While most people tend to show some concern for others, others can show what we have called" moral opportunism. "where they still want to look morally, but want to maximize their own benefit, says lead author Jeroen van Baar, a postdoctoral researcher in the cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences department at Brown University, who started this research when he was a teacher Dartmouth visits from Donder's brain, cognition and behavior institute at Radboud University.

"In everyday life, we do not notice that our morals are context-dependent, as our relationships tend to remain the same daily. But under new circumstances, finding out that the moral rules we believed we would always follow might actually be quite abusive, "co-author Luke J. Chang, an assistant professor of psychological and brain science and director of t he Computational Social Affective, explained. Neuroscience Laboratory (Cosan Lab) in Dartmouth. "This has tremendous ramifications if you consider how our moral behavior can change under new contexts, eg. During war, "he added.

To investigate moral decision making within the framework of reciprocity, the researchers developed a modified trust game called The Hidden Multiplier Trust Game, which allowed them to classify decisions in return trust as a function of a person's moral strategy. With this method, the team could determine what type of moral strategy a student's participation used: inequality of dislike (where people reproduce because they want to seek justice in the results), guilt aversion (where people reproduce because they do not want to feel guilty) greed or moral opportunism (a new strategy identified by the team, where people shift inequality of inexperience and guilt reluctance depending on what will best serve their interests) .The researchers also developed a computational, moral strategy model that could be used to explain how people behave in the game and examined the brain activity patterns associated with the moral strategies.

The results reveal, for the first time, the unique patterns of brain activity underlying the inequalities of reluctance and guilt reluctance strategies, even when the strategies provide the same behavior. For those participants who were moral opportunistic, the researchers observed that their brain patterns shifted between the two moral strategies across different contexts. "Our results show that people can apply different moral principles to making their decisions and that some people are much more flexible and will apply different principles depending on the situation," Chang explained. "This can explain why people we like and respect occasionally do things that we find morally objectionable."


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More Information:
Jeroen M. van Baar et al. The computational and neural substrates of moral strategies in social decision making Nature Communications (201
9). DOI: 10,1038 / s41467-019-09161-6

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Dartmouth College

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New study shows how your moral behavior can change depending on the context (2019, April 19)
retrieved April 19, 2019
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