The effect of analytic and experiential modes of thought on moral judgment

Trevor Kvaran, Shaun B Nichols, Alan Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


According to dual-process theories, moral judgments are the result of two competing processes: a fast, automatic, affect-driven process and a slow, deliberative, reason-based process. Accordingly, these models make clear and testable predictions about the influence of each system. Although a small number of studies have attempted to examine each process independently in the context of moral judgment, no study has yet tried to experimentally manipulate both processes within a single study. In this chapter, a well-established " mode-of-thought" priming technique was used to place participants in either an experiential/emotional or analytic mode while completing a task in which participants provide judgments about a series of moral dilemmas. We predicted that individuals primed analytically would make more utilitarian responses than control participants, while emotional priming would lead to less utilitarian responses. Support was found for both of these predictions. Implications of these findings for dual-process theories of moral judgment will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalProgress in Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • Dual-process
  • Mode of thought
  • Moral judgment
  • Moral psychology
  • Utilitarianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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