Small-scale utilitarianism: High acceptance of utilitarian solutions to Trolley Problems among a horticultural population in Nicaragua.

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Date: Apr. 5, 2021
From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 16, Issue 4)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,384 words
Lexile Measure: 1510L

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Abstract :

Researchers often use moral dilemmas to investigate the specific factors that influence participants' judgments of the appropriateness of different actions. A common construction of such a dilemma is the Trolley Problem, which pits an obvious utilitarian solution against a common deontological dictum to not do harm to others. Cross-cultural studies have validated the robustness of numerous contextual biases, such as judging utilitarian decisions more negatively if they require contact with other individuals (contact bias), they force others to serve as a means to an end (means bias), and if they require direct action rather than inaction (omission bias). However, such cross-cultural research is largely limited to studies of industrialized, nation-state populations. Previous research has suggested that the more intimate community relationships that characterize small-scale populations might lead to important differences, such as an absence of an omission bias. Here we contribute to this literature by investigating perceptions of Trolley Problem solutions among a Mayangna/Miskito community, a small-scale indigenous population in Nicaragua. Compared to previously sampled populations, the Mayangna/Miskito participants report higher levels of acceptance of utilitarian solutions and do not exhibit an omission bias. We also examine the justifications participants offered to explore how Mayangna/Miskito culture might influence moral judgments.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A657454596