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Distrusting your moral compass: The impact of distrust mindsets on moral dilemma processing and judgments


Social Cognition


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Conway P;Weiss A;Burgmer P;Mussweiler T

Publication Year



A growing literature suggests that generalized distrust mindsets encourage carefully considering alternatives—yet it remains unclear whether this pertains to moral decision-making. We propose that distrust simultaneously increases opposing moral response inclinations when moral decisions pit two moral responses against one another, such as classic moral dilemmas where causing harm maximizes outcomes. Such a pattern may be invisible to conventional analytic techniques that treat dilemma response inclinations as diametric opposites. Therefore, we employed process dissociation to independently assess response inclinations underlying moral dilemma responses. Three studies demonstrated that activating generalized distrust (vs. trust and control) mindsets increased both harm avoidance and outcome-maximization response tendencies. These effects canceled out for conventional relative dilemma judgments. Moreover, perceptions of feeling torn between available response options mediated the impact of distrust on both response inclinations. These findings clarify how distrust impacts decision-making processes in the moral domain.


Trust; Distrust; Moral judgment; Dilemmas; Process dissociation

Available on ECCH


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