Moral thinking across the world: Exploring the influence of personal force and intention in moral dilemma judgements

Bence Bago, and Balazs Aczel


Much research on moral judgment is centered on moral dilemmas in which deontological perspectives (i.e., emphasizing rules, individual rights and duties) are in conflict with utilitarian judgements (i.e., following the greater good defined through consequences). A central finding of this field Greene et al. showed that psychological and situational factors (e.g., the intent of the agent, or physical contact between the agent and the victim) play an important role in people’s use of deontological versus utilitarian considerations when making moral decisions. As their study was conducted with US samples, our knowledge is limited concerning the universality of this effect, in general, and the impact of culture on the situational and psychological factors of moral judgments, in particular. Here, we empirically test the universality of deontological and utilitarian judgments by replicating Greene et al.’s experiments on a large (N = X,XXX) and diverse (WEIRD and non-WEIRD) sample across the world to explore the influence of culture on moral judgment. The relevance of this exploration to a broad range of policy-making problems is discussed.


moral thinking; cultural differences; trolley problem; doctrine of double effect; personal force; WEIRD samples; non-WEIRD samples; replication; decision-making;

See also

Published in

Nature Human Behaviour, 2024, forthcoming