Individual differences in the explicit power motive predict “utilitarian” choices in moral dilemmas, especially when this choice is self-beneficial

Felix Suessenbach, Adam Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We all face moral decisions, whether we are judges, politicians, or just riding the bus. The most well studied of these involve concerns of harming or caring for other people, which have often been researched by employing hypothetical moral dilemmas. This study investigated how the explicit power motive, more precisely the hope to gain power (h_Power), predicts decisions for these types of problems. We found that h_Power was positively related to deciding that it was morally acceptable to kill one person to save multiple others (i.e., making a utilitarian choice). In an exploratory analysis, we found that the probability of making such choices as a function of h_Power was even higher when participants’ own lives were at stake as compared to only the lives of others. These findings complement previous research showing that personality variables as well as situational factors predict moral decision making. Finding biases in moral decision making is important, as only when we know these biases we can consciously counteract them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297–302
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Volume86
Early online date30 Jun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Explicit power motive
  • Hope to gain power
  • Utilitarian choice
  • Egoistic bias
  • Self-concern
  • Moral decision making
  • Moral dilemmas

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