Decisions in moral dilemmas: The influence of subjective beliefs in outcome probabilities

Yiyun SHOU*, Fei SONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have found that the proportions of people who endorsed utilitarian decisions varied across different variants of the trolley dilemma. In this paper, we explored whether moral choices were associated with beliefs about outcome probabilities in different moral dilemmas. Results of two experiments showed that participants’ perceptions of outcome probabilities were different between two dilemmas that were similar to the classical switch case and footbridge case. Participants’ judgments of the outcome probabilities were associated with their moral choices. The results suggested that participants might not accept task instructions and thus did not perceive the outcomes in the dilemmas as certain. We argued that researchers who endorse descriptive tasks in moral reasoning research should be cautious about the findings and should take participants’ beliefs in the outcomes into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-490
Number of pages10
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2017. The authors license this article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


  • Moral decision
  • Moral dilemma
  • Moral reasoning
  • Probability judgment


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