Taboo or tragic – Effect of tradeoff type on moral choice, conflict, and confidence

Tabou ou tragique – Effet du type de compromis sur le choix moral, le conflit et la confiance


  1. Mandel, D.R.
  2. Vartanian, O.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN)
Historically, cognitivists considered moral choices to be determined by analytic processes. Recent theories, however, have emphasized the role of intuitive processes in determining moral choices. We propose that the engagement of analytic and intuitive processes is contingent on the type of tradeoff being considered. Specifically, when a tradeoff necessarily violates a moral principle no matter what choice is made, as in tragic tradeoffs, its resolution should result in greater moral conflict and less confidence in choice than when the tradeoff offers a moral escape route, as in taboo tradeoffs. We manipulated tradeoff type in a between-subjects design and confirmed the prediction that tragic tradeoffs prompt more conflict and less confidence than taboo tradeoffs. The findings further revealed that moral conflict mediated the effect of tradeoff type on confidence. The study sheds light on the manner in which human minds resolve moral problems involving social agents.

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analytic and intuitive processes, subjective mental effort, problem difficulty,
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-SL-2007-016 — Scientific Literature
Date of publication
01 Sep 2007
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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