April 14, 2021

Response time modelling reveals evidence for multiple, distinct sources of moral decision caution

People are often cautious in delivering moral judgments of others’ behaviours, as falsely accusing others of wrongdoing can be costly for social relationships. Caution might further be present when making judgements in information-dynamic environments, as contextual updates can change our minds. This study investigated the processes with which moral valence and context expectancy drive caution in moral judgements. Across two experiments, participants (N = 122) made moral judgements of others’ sharing actions. Prior to judging, participants were informed whether contextual information regarding the deservingness of the recipient would follow. We found that participants slowed their moral judgements when judging negatively valenced actions and when expecting contextual updates. Using a diffusion decision model framework, these changes were explained by shifts in drift rate and decision bias (valence) and boundary setting (context), respectively. These findings demonstrate how moral decision caution can be decomposed into distinct aspects of the unfolding decision process.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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