The Psychology of Moral Decision Making: Exploring Inconsistencies, Consistencies, and the Importance of Manual and Automated Processes

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The Psychology of Moral Decision Making: Exploring Inconsistencies, Consistencies, and the Importance of Manual and Automated Processes

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I just need a 1000-word essay on one of these prompts and the rubric is right below that
1. Greene mentions why and when people will pull the switch on the trolley. Sometimes, people are inconsistent. Namely, people will admit they should save the most (which would imply that they should let the trolley run over one person) but will refuse to push someone. According to Greene, what explains this inconsistency? Remember that, if you answer this prompt, you should include all the details of the theory (e.g. from these two chapters), and mention his paper “Solving the Trolley Problem” from the supplementary reading.
2. During testing, Antonio Demasio, Greene, and many others found that psychopaths have no problem being consistent with the two versions of the trolley problem. Make sure to cite the Demasio paper in this prompt from our reading. So, the idea is that psychopaths consistently pushed or consistently refused to. Either way, they are usually consistent. Indeed, this is unusual. Being consistent on the trolley is also temporarily true of people who have been given certain drugs. What does this mean, exactly? In other words, why and when are people consistent when approaching the trolley problem? Of course, details matter here, especially since there are so many experiments.
3. Greene argues that our automated processes (i.e. in moral judgment) are reliable but not flexible. Conversely, our manual processes are flexible but not reliable. Yet as he says, we need both of these methods of reasoning. We have already seen this theory at work in the “Moral Machinery” chapter. Why are both of these processes important? In answering this prompt make sure to mention the “Solving the Trolley Problem and “Pushing Buttons” papers from our readings. Generally speaking, what are the benefits and the problems of each system, respectively?
When I say short essays, I do not mean a sentence. Nor do I mean a single paragraph. Never write a single paragraph. Ever. Rather, an essay is at least 5 or more substantive paragraphs, although you can write more. So you should be thinking of about 1000 words per essay- that is the minimum. More importantly, you are arguing for something. So at the very least, you will need an essay to do this effectively.
Relatedly, if you see others writing less (or one long paragraph) do not follow their lead. When I grade, I always evaluate essays according to the standards I am delineating here.
Always include page numbers and quotes from Rachels, Singer, or Greene (not just the first page of the chapter) and secondary sources to prove your points. For example, if the prompt is about David Hume and the prompt mentions a secondary source, make sure to quote both. Do not omit quoting from anything mentioned in the prompt. When you add page numbers and quotes, I can look up your points. I will be looking for this kind of detail.
Never upload a file that I would have to download. For instance, never upload something from Google Docs that I have to ask permission to see. Nor send me a Pdf. When I open your Canvas submission, I should never see a file that I have to download. Rather, I should see your text. Remember, mere files will not get any credit.
Always save your essays (e.g. create a file for your essays), just in case there is a problem (e.g. with Canvas). I cannot just believe things like “…but I submitted it” without proof.
Concerning the form of your essays, remember that you are arguing for something. All the prompts ask you to consider some position (or positions) and evaluate it. Given this, you should always write in the first person. Given this, use phrases such as ‘I will argue that.’ Arguing in the third person makes little sense in argumentative essays. Why is this? You must let the reader know what your argument will be. Remember, saying something like “I will be discussing…” is not the same. You are not discussing. Nor considering. Instead, the reader has to know what you, the author, will be arguing. Similarly, in your conclusion, use phrases like “I have argued that” or “In this essay, I have shown that…” Remember, conclusions are not a place to draw an overall moral nor a place to offer pithy words of wisdom. Conclusions, rather, than summarize what you have argued.
Similarly, all essays have a structure. First, in the introduction, you tell the reader what is coming in enough detail so he or she knows what to expect. This is the “I will be arguing” part. Second, the body of the essay elaborates on the points and is the place to consider objections. Sometimes, in the prompts, I ask you to consider specific objections. Remember, you can always write more. Namely, you can elaborate as much as you like. The body of the paper is by far the longest part of the essay. Third, offer a conclusion. Conclusions, remember, are not just one sentence, nor do they offer pithy words of wisdom. Instead, they summarize your argument. In the conclusion, thus, you can say something like “In this essay, I have shown that…” and then recapitulate what you have said. It is worth remembering that all philosophical essays, even long books, have this structure.
Concerning the content of the prompts, remember the details. Consider a few aspects of this. First, make sure to get the view of Epicurus, Augustine, etc., correct. Although this may be difficult, creating caricatures (i.e. straw men) is not engaging with them. Second, always stick to the point. Examples are great, but they must be relevant. Same with analogies. Never let some illustration take the place of your argument. Third, make sure to cover all the components of the prompt. Do not omit any. Given these three points, it should be plain that writing philosophical essays can be difficult. Still, following such strictures makes for better essays.
Lastly, when considering how to answer the prompts, remember to be critical. Consider two aspects of this. First, do not feel as if you have to agree with a position. If a prompt asks about some thinker, that does not mean you have to defend that person. Second, most positions (e.g. idealism) have plausible and implausible parts. Often, it is better to agree with one aspect of a position and disagree with another, or agree or disagree only to a degree. Remember to think for yourself, and create your view.


The trolley dilemma is one of the most well-known thought experiments in the area of moral decision-making because it puts a person in a scenario where they must decide whether to sacrifice one life to save many. In his book “Moral Tribes,” Joshua Greene talks about the trolley problem and the contradictions that people show when choosing their moral paths. Greene claims that individuals frequently claim that pushing someone will save the most lives, which implies that they should let the trolley run over one person, but they won’t do it. This essay will look at Greene’s theory of moral judgment and how it relates to the trolley dilemma.

According to Greene, the contradiction seen in people’s moral judgments is a result of the automated processes in our brains that are incompatible with the manual processes, which are slower and more deliberate yet are responsible for producing swift and intuitive judgments. He contends that human procedures are founded on thinking and reflection, whereas automated processes depend on moral intuitions that have been formed by evolution and society. The contradictions in moral decision-making are caused by this tension between intuition and intellect.

In his essay “Solving the Trolley Problem,” Greene explains how the trolley problem can be used to better understand how manual and automated systems interact when making moral decisions. He contends that people’s automatic processes control their instinctive response to the trolley problem, which is to save the most lives. But when people are allowed to think, they frequently decide to give up one life to save many, which is consistent with the manual procedures.

Additionally, Antonio Demasio and other researchers discovered that psychopaths frequently exhibit consistency while responding to the trolley problem. No matter how many lives are on the line, they continuously push or consistently refuse to push the lever. This implies that the friction between automated and manual procedures that is present in healthy people is absent in psychopaths. Similarly to this, those who take particular medications that improve the efficiency of their automated processes also respond to the trolley dilemma more consistently.

What does this entail for how we perceive moral judgment? It implies that the tension between automatic and manual processes is a key feature of human cognition and that both processes are required for arriving at moral judgments. Greene contends that manual processes are flexible but unreliable, whereas automated processes are dependable but not flexible. Therefore, to arrive at informed moral conclusions, we need to use both types of reasoning.

Greene explores the advantages and drawbacks of automated versus manual operations in the “Pushing Buttons” article. Automated procedures are advantageous because they provide us the ability to make snap decisions that can be helpful when time is of the essence. Automated procedures are nevertheless subject to bias and mistakes, particularly when moral judgments clash with other objectives or values.

On the other hand, manual procedures are advantageous because they give us the chance to consider our values and make thoughtful choices. Manual procedures, however, can often be slow and resource-intensive and are subject to error. As a result, both automated and human methods have benefits and drawbacks, and we must find a way to balance them to make moral decisions that are well-informed.

In conclusion, Greene’s theory of moral decision-making sheds light on how people respond inconsistently to the trolley problem. A key component of human cognition is the tension between automated and manual processes, and both are essential for arriving at well-informed moral judgments. We need both types of reasoning to make informed moral decisions, even though manual procedures are flexible but unreliable, and computerized processes are both.

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