Moral judgments quicker and more extreme than practical ones
The decisions we make on moral grounds are made more quickly and are more extreme than those made for purely pragmatic reasons, suggest a new set of studies.
However, the findings also show that judgments based on morality can be readily shifted and made with other considerations in mind.
"Our findings show that we make and see decisions quite differently if they are made with a morality frame," said Jay Van Bavel, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Psychology and one of the study's co-authors.
"But, despite these differences, there is now evidence that we can shift judgments so they are based on practical, rather than moral, considerations-and vice versa."
"Once an issue is declared moral, people's judgments about that issue become more extreme, and they are more likely to apply those judgments to others," said Ingrid Haas, a co-author of the report and an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in a statement.
Participants were asked to pass judgment on over 100 possible actions - first whether it is "morally right" to flatter a boss with a lie, for example. They were then asked if taking that same action would be good or bad for them personally, and whether others should follow suit.
Other questions touched on topics including voting, saving for retirement and dating co-workers.
The studies also suggest we are flexible on whether a decision should be made on moral grounds.
Subjects responded differently to the same questions depending whether it was framed as a moral or practical matter. This suggests we may be "malleable" on how we view such decisions, say researchers.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.