Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Kristin Lane

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The dual-process theory of moral judgments assumes that utilitarian judgments (sacrificing a person for the greater good) are controlled processes, but non-utilitarian judgments (not sacrificing a person for the greater good) are automatic processes. The current study extended this theory by suggesting that when race and implicit bias are taken into account, utilitarian judgments are instead automatic. Using stereotypically White (James Warner) and Black (Jamal Jones) names to connote race, the study asked participants to sacrifice James or Jamal for the greater good and then complete an implicit measure of racial bias. Although participants did not show significant between-group differences in sacrificing Jamal over James, participants who were asked to sacrifice Jamal showed a significant likelihood of making the utilitarian decisions. Overall, participants were also slower to sacrifice Jamal relative to James. Surprisingly, implicit racial bias did not predict participants’ utilitarian decision. The data suggested that participants might in fact be engaging in more controlled processes, rather than the predicted automatic processes, when race and implicit bias were taken into consideration. Alternative explanations, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

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