Mini lesson: Moral decision-making

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Learning objectives: Students will  think critically about the philosophical foundations of moral psychology by discussing how their intuitions change from scenario to scenario or differ from individual to individual.

In this lesson, students will see an example of how philosophical theory is utilized to empirically test psychological concepts- like intuition based judgment- in a real life demonstration of a common thought experiment.

In this activity, students are first asked to get in pairs and come up with some definitions and qualities of the two major moral psychology theories (deontology vs. consequentialism). This activity is meant to supplement introducing the two concepts as part of a historical/philosophical background to empirical psychology. Using the slides: MiniLesson_Morality_SLIDES, the students will come up with the definitions (which can be written/tracked on the board or on the slides) and then they will be introduced to the trolley problem (some detailed trolley problem instructions are included in the notes section of the slides). There are also instructions for collecting responses to the the scenarios in the slides, but the voting should be blind by using a heads down method (can also be achieved with an online survey using clickers or software). The two main trolley problems are pictured, and students will be asked to vote on which option is better (push one to save many, etc). This should be done in a short window as students should try to chose the option that best suits their “gut” response. Next, students will answer discussion questions applying the results from the class to decide whether the class is on average more deontological or more utilitarian in their decision making styles. The mini-lesson ends with another short think-pair-share-write to compare and contrast results of the class to their own intuitions. This can be extended into a lesson that discusses dual-system processes as well (system-one versus system-two) (Tversky and Kahneman, as cited by Kahneman, 2011).

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.

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