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Moral Decisions Often Based on Intuition, Not Logic

Moral Decisions Often Based on Intuition, Not LogicNew research suggests how we make moral judgments is often different from how we believe those decisions evolve.

Although we would like to think that our judgments are always well thought-out, researchers have discovered that our moral judgments are often based on intuition. Since our emotions drive our intuitions, our gut feel that something is “right” or “wrong” — that is, our moral compass — is actually an emotional response.

In some cases, however, we seem to be able to override these initial reactions, say researchers.

Matthew Feinberg, Ph.D., and colleagues hypothesized that this might be the result of reappraisal, a process by which we dampen the intensity of our emotions by focusing on an intellectual description of why we are experiencing the emotion.

In a course of several studies, participants read stories describing moral dilemmas involving behaviors participants would probably find disgusting. Participants who reappraised the scenarios logically were less likely to make intuition-based moral judgments.

These findings suggest that although our emotional reactions elicit moral intuitions, these emotions can also be regulated.

“In this way,” the researchers write, “we are both slave and master, with the capacity to be controlled by, but also shape, our emotion-laden judgmental processes.”

This study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Moral Decisions Often Based on Intuition, Not Logic

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Moral Decisions Often Based on Intuition, Not Logic. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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