One of the methods that we use to examine whether a decision is moral or not is universalization. In this method, we ponder about what would happen if everyone made the same decision. For example, if all of us lied, then nobody would trust anyone. Through this reasoning, we are able to determine that an action is moral or not. The question is, do we practice it in our everyday lives? It seems that the answer is yes, but we don’t do it all the time.
In a study of several hundred people, MIT and Harvard University researchers have confirmed that people do use this strategy in particular situations called “threshold problems.” These are social dilemmas in which harm can occur if everyone, or a large number of people, performs a certain action. The authors devised a mathematical model that quantitatively predicts the judgments they are likely to make. They also showed, for the first time, that children as young as 4 years old can use this type of reasoning to judge right and wrong.
“This mechanism seems to be a way that we spontaneously can figure out what are the kinds of actions that I can do that are sustainable in my community,” says Sydney Levine, a postdoc at MIT and Harvard and the lead author of the study.
Learn more about the study over at MIT News.
Via Big Think
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