Not just bad actions: Affective concern for bad outcomes contributes to moral condemnation of harm in moral dilemmas.

Moral dilemmas typically entail directly causing harm (said to violate deontological ethics) to maximize overall outcomes (said to uphold utilitarian ethics). The dual process model suggests harm-rejection judgments derive from affective reactions to harm, whereas harm-acceptance judgments derive from cognitive evaluations of outcomes. Recently, Miller, Hannikainen, and Cushman (2014) argued that harm-rejection judgments primarily reflect self-focused—rather than other-focused—emotional responses, because only action aversion (self-focused reactions to the thought of causing harm), not outcome aversion (other-focused reactions to witnessing suffering), consistently predicted dilemma responses. However, they assessed only conventional relative dilemma judgments that treat harm-rejection and outcome-maximization responses as diametric opposites. Instead, we employed process dissociation to assess these response inclinations independently. In two studies (N = 558), we replicated Miller and colleagues’ findings for conventional relative judgments, but process dissociation revealed that outcome aversion positively predicted both deontological and utilitarian inclinations—which canceled out for relative judgments. Additionally, individual differences associated with affective processing—psychopathy and empathic concern—correlated with the deontology but not utilitarian parameter. Together, these findings suggest that genuine other-oriented moralized concern for others’ well-being contribute to both utilitarian and deontological response tendencies, but these tendencies nonetheless draw upon different psychological processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)