The effects of explicit reasoning on moral judgements

Daniel Corral, Abraham M. Rutchick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We report four experiments that investigate explicit reasoning and moral judgements. In each experiment, some subjects responded to the “footbridge” version of the trolley problem (which elicits stronger moral intuitions), whereas others responded to the “switch” version (which elicits weaker moral intuitions). Experiments 1–2 crossed the type of trolley problem with four reasoning conditions: control, counter-attitudinal, pro-attitudinal, and mixed reasoning (both types of reasoning). Experiments 3–4 examine whether moral judgements vary based on (a) when reasoners engage in counter-attitudinal reasoning, (b) when they make the moral judgement, and (c) by the type of moral dilemma. These two experiments comprised five conditions: control (judgement only), delay-only (2-minute wait then judgement), reasoning-only (reasoning then judgement), reasoning-delay (reasoning, then 2-minute delay, then judgement), and delayed-reasoning (2-minute delay, then reasoning, then judgement). These conditions were crossed with the type of trolley problem. We find that engaging in some form of counter-attitudinal reasoning led to less typical judgements (regardless of when it occurs), but this effect was mostly restricted to the switch version of the dilemma (and was strongest in the reasoning-delay conditions). Furthermore, neither pro-attitudinal reasoning nor delayed judgements on their own impacted subjects’ judgements. Reasoners therefore seem open to modifying their moral judgements when they consider opposing perspectives but might be less likely to do so for dilemmas that elicit relatively strong moral intuitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)828-845
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Moral dilemmas
  • counter and pro-attitudinal reasoning
  • decision-making
  • delayed moral judgements
  • reflection and reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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