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(Ir)rationality of Moral Judgment

Michel Regenwetter
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ~ Psychology
Ms. Brittney Currie
Ms. Yu Huang
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ~ Psychology
Dr. Bart Smeulders
Ms. Anna Carlson

Chaotic responses to Covid-19, political polarization, pervasive misinformation, and social unrest raise the question whether some or many individuals exercise irrational moral judgment. We provide the first mathematically correct direct test for transitivity of moral preferences. Transitivity, a core rationality criterion, is conceptually, mathematically, and statistically difficult to evaluate. We tested three parsimonious, order-constrained, probabilistic characterizations. Among 28 individuals, everyone satisfied the weak utility model, according to which an individual’s choices are noisy reflections of a single transitive preference. Tightening the bounds on error rates in noisy responses yielded a poorly performing model. Everyone obeyed the general random utility hypothesis, according to which individuals’ choices reveal uncertain, but transitive, moral preferences. Bayesian model selection favored such probabilistic transitive preferences, hence also the equivalent random utility hypothesis. The findings suggest that there is some order underlying the apparent chaos: Rather than presume widespread disregard for moral principles, policy makers may build on navigating and reconciling extreme heterogeneity compounded with individual uncertainty. Symposium submission for DETERMINISTIC AND PROBABILISTIC MODELS OF CHOICE Daniel Cavagnaro Jean-Paul Doignon Marc Jekel Tim Pleskac Michel Regenwetter Reinhard Suck



General Random Utility Hypothesis; Order-constrained Bayesian Inference; Rationality; Weak Stochastic Transitivity; Linear Ordering Polytope

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Cite this as:

Regenwetter, M., Currie, B., Huang, Y., Smeulders, B., & Carlson, A. (2023, July). (Ir)rationality of Moral Judgment. Abstract published at MathPsych/ICCM/EMPG 2023. Via