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Cold-Hearted or Cool-Headed: Physical Coldness Promotes Utilitarian Moral Judgment

By Hiroko eNakamura, Yuichi eIto, Yoshiko eHonma, Takuya eMori and Jun eKawaguchi


In the current study, we examine the effect of physical coldness on personal moral dilemma judgment. Previous studies have indicated that utilitarian moral judgment—sacrificing a few people to achieve the greater good for others—was facilitated when: (1) participants suppressed an initial emotional response and deliberately thought about the utility of outcomes; (2) participants had a high-level construal mindset and focused on abstract goals (e.g., save many); or (3) there was a decreasing emotional response to sacrificing a few. In two experiments, we exposed participants to extreme cold or typical room temperature and then asked them to make personal moral dilemma judgments. The results of Experiment 1 indicated that coldness prompted utilitarian judgment, but the effect of coldness was independent from deliberate thought or abstract high-level construal mindset. As Experiment 2 revealed, coldness facilitated utilitarian judgment via reduced empathic feelings. Therefore, physical coldness did not affect the cool-headed deliberate process or the abstract high-level construal mindset. Rather, coldness biased people toward being cold-hearted, reduced empathetic concern about a sacrificed victim, and facilitated utilitarian moral judgments

Topics: Empathy, embodiment, moral dilemmas, coldness, construal level, Psychology, BF1-990
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01086
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