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Researchers Develop Measures to Capture Moral Judgments and Empathy

C. Daryl Cameron: Sometimes self-reports will be useful, but sometimes people edit these reports to give a good impression to others. If you want to know who is likely to feel your pain, and not make “you” feel the pain, then relying on self-report, although a good start, may not always be enough. Rather than asking people what they think is moral, or how much empathy they feel, our work attempts to assess people’s immediate, spontaneous reactions before they have had much time to think at all. In other words, we examine how people behave to get a sense for their moral reactions. For example, consider the new task that my collaborators and I developed to measure people’s gut reactions that certain actions are morally wrong. Gut reactions have been thought by many psychologists to play a powerful role in moral decision-making and behavior.

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