Utilitarianism in minimal-group decision making is less common than equality-based morality, mostly harm-oriented, and rarely impartial

Arne Roets, Dries H. Bostyn, Jonas De keersmaecker, Tessa Haesevoets, Jasper Van Assche, Alain Van Hiel
2020 Scientific Reports  
In the study of utilitarian morality, the sacrificial dilemma paradigm has been the dominant approach for years. However, to address some of the most pressing issues in the current research literature, the present studies adopt an alternative approach by using a minimal group paradigm in which participants have to make decisions about the allocation of resources. This approach allows not only to pit utilitarianism against equality-based morality, but also to study these modes of morality for
more » ... h harm and benefit, and to directly address the role of group identity affecting the (im)partial nature of 'utilitarian' (i.e., outcome maximizing) decisions. In our experiments, across four different samples (total N = 946), we demonstrate that although participants generally prefer equality-based allocations over maximizing distributions, outcome maximizing choices become more prevalent when they served to minimize harm compared to maximizing benefit. Furthermore, reducing the objective value of the equal distribution outcomes further prompts participants to adopt a more utilitarian approach in situations involving harm, but has little effect in situations where benefits have to be distributed. Finally, the introduction of (minimal) group identity consistently demonstrates that decisions that maximize the overall outcome are more likely if they also serve the ingroup compared to when they rather serve the outgroup. We discuss how these findings have meaningful implications that may be especially relevant for recent movements that advocate a utilitarian approach to charity, and for our understanding of (im)partiality in lay people's 'utilitarian' decision making.
doi:10.1038/s41598-020-70199-4 pmid:32770106 fatcat:fvf5wbnrzbbbbpl3rpzmul2pyu