TitleThe principle of double effect and preschoolers' moral intuitions
NameSaunders, Katharine (author), Leslie, Alan M (chair), Gelman, Rochel (internal member), Chapman, Gretchen (internal member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Judgment in children,
Double effect (Ethics),
DescriptionA thought experiment known as the trolley problem has frequently been used to examine whether adult moral judgments follow utilitarian principles; for example, maximize happiness for the greatest number. Previous research has shown that adults find it morally permissible to harm one person to save five others only when the harm to one is a foreseen side effect of saving five, but not when the harm to one is deliberately intended as the means to saving five. However, when asked to justify this moral intuition, few adults can articulate the principles guiding their judgment, suggesting that our moral judgments may be rooted in unconscious processes that evaluate the causal and intentional properties of an event. The current study tested 54 children on age-appropriate trolley dilemmas to examine whether young children make this distinction between harm as side effect and harm as a main effect. Our research indicates that like adults, preschoolers favor a utilitarian outcome when harming one person is simply a foreseen side effect of saving five others, but not when harming one person is the main effect of saving five.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Katharine Saunders
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.