Monday, December 12, 2005

Test those intuitions

This is so relevant to our earlier discussion, it's scary.

With a hat tip to Pea Soup, the blog of the grown ups here at BG and some other grown ups elsewhere, I give you: The Moral Sense Test. It's from Harvard, and it tests your intuitions that, of course, none of us here rely on for our moral judgments.

Here's how they explain this thing:
The Moral Sense Test is a Web-based study into the nature of moral intuitions. How do humans, throughout the world, decide what is right and wrong? To answer this question, we have designed a series of moral dilemmas designed to probe the psychological mechanisms underlying our ethical judgments. By putting these questions on the Web, we hope to gain insight into the similarities and differences between the moral intuitions of people of different ages, from different cultures, with different educational backgrounds and religious beliefs, involved in different occupations and exposed to very different circumstances.

(Get out your calculator, Arthur, you'll need to compute a lot of utility!)

11 comments:

  1. Haha, rather oddly, my relative nature came through in my responses to that test. It had to do with a lack of explanation of how I was to handle the test, so I did it in a manner that was likely unexpected. It is interesting, though, to see what our intuitions might tell us about what we want or perceive our ethical standpoint to be. But to use these as the primary basis for morality (even ignoring internal consistency) does seem rather wrong, especially since they might conflict for some people. So I'm with Arthur on it being a bad idea to rely too heavily on intuitions.

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  2. Did you get a result of some sort? Mine just told me that I had completed it. After that amount of time I was very disappointed. [sigh]

    Let the patient die and harvest his organs indeed!

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  3. Yes, Matteson, I, too, was disappointed after spending all that time thinking long and hard about harvesting organs, not harvesting them, eating them, or letting them be eaten by people who like to do that sort of thing.

    Especially given the explanation at the beginning that said I might be disturbed by my evaluation (or something like that). Where's my evaluation? I want my evaluation!

    My intuitions tell me that the test was impermissible on the grounds that there was no evaluation which was originally promised.

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  4. The "result" I "got" was to "explain" apparent "conflicting assessments." Basically, if you answered 2 of the same situation (ie, rate one that is active and one that is passive differently) then you have to explain it. I was answering the questions from the standpoint of the person, not from the standpoint I would take. So I got conflicting results for various reasons, and results that are not necessarily in line with what I would do in the situations.

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  5. I was also asked to explain "conflicting assessments." I rated pulling the plug on the activist as permissible and giving him a hospital room in which to die impermissible-plus-one. In case anyone is wondering, I find engaging in euthanasia of one's patients permissible. However, it seems that, barring something I haven't thought of (which is why I have the "plus-one") giving someone a hospital room in which to die seems like a waste of potentially valuable hospital space for a non-medical purpose.

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  6. I too was asked to explain a few of my answers because of apparent inconsistency. Now, when you all were answering questions, did you find yourself appealing to intuitions, or were you thinking out more elaborate justifications?

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  7. What the heck is a degree of permissability? More or less permissable, bah humbug.

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  8. I was frustrated by the ranking system too. Same with the questions. I wanted to know if the person with the organs was my son or daughter, or was King-God of the Universe, or Mother Teresa, and so on.

    You see, I'm not pulling the plug on my daughter even if the Pope, Faraci's mom, the villagers in some remote part of the Netherlands, and a dozen pigeons could be spared thereby. You and your utitilationism be damned, Arthur.

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  9. Once in lecture on Kohlberg's gender dichotomy, I decide to list all the other personal dichotomies I could think of, all of which would be interesting to test by moral intuitions (or the like.) I came up with 16. Here quickly are just a few: (remembering they are structured as duplets): age, income, education, IQ, distance from the equator, rural/urban, risk aversion, birth order, family dysfunction, body type, liberal-conservative, general health, physical skill level, social capital, and so on. The point is I wonder how these duplets would impact score relative to how gender does. Adam

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  10. OK, one more quick post, then off to home and eat and feed my cats.

    I'm working on a paper on reflective equilibrium, and one of my claims will be nobody really "does" RE. Our moral world is norm-centric, not theory-centric. When was the last time you used theory against the jerk who butt in line in front of you? Instead, what we think of as reflective equilibrium is really just a mirroring of the academic social world: professors and students kicking around moral intuitions and theory's, and the discussion ends when some kind of understanding of all the concepts has sufficiently formed.

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  11. "then off to home and eat and feed my cats."

    Don't do it in that order, Adam, you'll either be wasting food trying to feed cats you've already eaten, or you will fail trying to feed cats that are in your stomach. Just go home and eat them, and don't worry about feeding them.

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