The Negative Effects of Empathy on Moral Decision Making

Author: Megan Miller
Major: Psychology
Approved: Spring 2017
Status: Completed

Every day, humans are faced with situations in which they must make a moral decision. Often times, moral decisions must be made based off immediate reactions to the dilemma one faces, as detailed information is not always available. Research in the field of moral decision making is growing, specifically in relation to the individual differences that might influence what decisions are made in certain situations. While there are many individual differences that influence moral decision making, one main factor is the amount of empathy one has. Empathy is commonly defined as putting oneself in the shoes of others, and attempting to feel what they feel. My research project will focus on the situations that self-driving cars encounter, asking participants to make the decision: should the car kill the driver or kill a person walking across the street? I will examine what individual differences, if any, lead people towards making a certain decision.