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The influence of identifiability and singularity in moral decision making
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Health Care Analysis. Linköping University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7620-8607
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economics. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Decis Res, Honolulu, HI USA; Univ Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403 USA.
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Psychology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Decis Res, Honolulu, HI USA.
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2015 (English)In: Judgment and decision making, ISSN 1930-2975, E-ISSN 1930-2975, Vol. 10, no 5, 492-502 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is an increased willingness to help identified individuals rather than non-identified, and the effect of identifiability is mainly present when a single individual rather than a group is presented. However, identifiability and singularity effects have thus far not been manipulated orthogonally. The present research uses a joint evaluation approach to examine the relative contribution of identifiability and singularity in moral decision-making reflecting conflicting values between deontology and consequentialism. As in trolley dilemmas subjects could either choose to stay with the default option, i.e., giving a potentially life-saving vaccine to a single child, or to actively choose to deny the single child the vaccine in favor of five other children. Identifiability of the single child and the group of children was varied between-subjects in a 2x2 factorial design. In total 1,232 subjects from Sweden and the United States participated in three separate experiments. Across all treatments, in all three experiments, 32.6% of the subjects chose to stay with the deontological default option instead of actively choosing to maximize benefits. Results show that identifiability does not always have a positive effect on decisions in allocation dilemmas. For single targets, identifiability had a negative or no effect in two out of three experiments, while for the group of targets identifiability had a more stable positive effect on subjects’ willingness to allocate vaccines. When the effect of identifiability was negative, process data showed that this effect was mediated by emotional reactance. Hence, the results show that the influence of identifiability is more complex than it has been previously portrayed in the literature on charitable giving. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 10, no 5, 492-502 p.
Keyword [en]
identifiable victim effect, singularity effect, resource allocation, trolley dilemma, moral judgment, decision making, charitable giving
National Category
Applied Psychology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122128ISI: 000362067700009OAI: diva2:861784

Funding text: Ragnar Soderberg Foundation; U.S. National Science Foundation [SES-1227729, SES-1427414]

Available from: 2015-10-19 Created: 2015-10-19 Last updated: 2016-02-08Bibliographically approved

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Wiss, JohannaAndersson, DavidVästfjäll, DanielTinghög, Gustav
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Division of Health Care AnalysisFaculty of Medicine and Health SciencesEconomicsFaculty of Arts and SciencesPsychology
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Judgment and decision making
Applied Psychology

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