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How Does Ego Depletion Affect Moral Judgments and Pro-social Decisions?
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economics. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economics. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2013 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Hur påverkar mental utmattning moraliska bedömningar och prosociala beslut? (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: Today’s societal changes, including high rate of change and increasing information flows, are increasing the demand on the individual mental capacity. It becomes increasingly difficult to analytically process all the different dilemmas and everyday decisions as individuals have a limited mental capacity available to make these decisions. Thus, it has been suggested that ego-depleted relies more heavily on intuition, which is less burdensome, when making decision. However little is known about to what extent intuitive decisions differ from analytic. Are ego-depleted individuals more or less likely to maximize outcome in moral dilemmas involving conflicting values? Do ego depleted individuals become more or less willing to cooperate? Do ego depleted individuals become more or less altruistic? Is our intuition more or less in accordance with Homo Economicus?AIM: Starting from a Dual Process perspective on decision-making the aim of this study is to examine how ego depletion affects moral judgment and pro-social decisions.METHOD: A laboratory experiment involving 115 subjects, using real monetary incentives, was conducted among students at Linköping University. Subjects were randomized into one of two treatments. Everything was identical across treatments except for the initial ego-depletion manipulation. Using a standard paradigm for ego-depletion subjects in treatment 1 were put under high cognitive load while subjects in treatment two were put under low cognitive load. Subjects faced 16 questions divided into four different decision tasks: Moral dilemmas, Public Goods game, two types of Dictator Game where the type of sacrifice subjects could make in order to contribute money to charity was varied.RESULTS: Subjects in the high cognitive load treatment made fewer consequentialists moral judgments compared to other subjects (p = 0.075). The effect is especially strong when looking only at high-conflict dilemmas such as Crying Baby. No difference between treatments was found for the public goods games. In the dictator game involving monetary sacrifice subjects donated less money to charity when put under high cognitive load. However the finding was not significant (p = 0.292). No difference was found in the dictator game involving effort as personal sacrifice since almost everyone chooses to donate to charity.CONCLUSION: According to The Dual Process perspective this essay shows that intuitive thinking does not evidently lead to that they makes decision that more or less is in accordance with Homo Economicus. The connection between ego depletion and pro-social decisions is more complex. Further research needs to investigate which different mental shortcuts that individuals uses in various types of pro-social decisions and why intuitive and analytical decision-making differ between different decisions. Further research within the area can identify potential mechanisms and policies that can support individuals’ capacity to make decisions in accordance with their own and society’s preferences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. , 68 p.
Keyword [en]
Behavioral Economics, Experiment, Ego depletion, Dual Process Theory, Altruism, Pro-social, decisions, Moral Dilemma, Public Good Game, Dictator Game.
Keyword [sv]
Beteendeekonomi, Experiment, Mental utmattning, Dual Process teorin, Altruism, Prosociala beslut, Moraliska dilemman, Public Good spelet, Diktatorspelet.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-111858ISRN: LIU-IEI-FIL-A--13/01621—SEOAI: diva2:761097
Subject / course
Master Thesis in International Business and Economics Programme (Economics)
2013-06-03, 14:38 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-03-05 Created: 2014-11-05 Last updated: 2015-03-05Bibliographically approved

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