KEYNOTE: Consequences, Norms, and Generalized Inaction in Moral Dilemmas: The CNI Model of Moral Decision-Making

Bertram Gawronski
Professor, David Wechsler Regents Chair in Psychology
University of Texas at Austin


Abstract. Research on moral dilemma judgments has been fundamentally shaped by the distinction between utilitarianism and deontology. According to the principle of utilitarianism, the moral status of behavioral options depends on their consequences; the principle of deontology states that the moral status of behavioral options depends on their consistency with moral norms. To identify the processes underlying utilitarian and deontological judgments, researchers have investigated responses to moral dilemmas that pit one principle against the other (e.g., trolley problem). However, the conceptual meaning of responses in this paradigm is ambiguous, because the central aspects of utilitarianism and deontology—consequences and norms—are not manipulated. We illustrate how this shortcoming undermines theoretical interpretations of empirical findings and describe an alternative approach that resolves the ambiguities of the traditional paradigm. Expanding on this approach, we present a multinomial model that allows researchers to quantify sensitivity to consequences (C), sensitivity to moral norms (N), and general preference for inaction versus action irrespective of consequences and norms (I) in responses to moral dilemmas. We present 8 studies that used this model to investigate the effects of gender, cognitive load, question framing, and psychopathy on moral dilemma judgments. The findings obtained with the proposed CNI model offer more nuanced insights into the determinants of moral dilemma judgments, calling for a reassessment of dominant theoretical assumptions.

The Paper


Remembering As A Mental Action

Santiago Arango-Muñoz
G.I. Conocimiento, Filosofía, Ciencia, Historia y Sociedad
Instituto de Filosofía
Universidad de Antioquia

Juan Pablo Bermúdez
Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas
Universidad Externado de Colombia


Abstract: Many philosophers consider that memory is just a passive information retention and retrieval capacity. Some information and experiences are encoded, stored, and subsequently retrieved in a passive way, without any control or intervention on the subject’s part. In this paper, we will defend an active account of memory according to which remembering is a mental action and not merely a passive event. According to the reconstructive account, memory is an imaginative reconstruction of past experience. A key feature of the reconstructive account is that given the imperfect character of memory outputs, some kind of control is needed. Metacognition is the control of mental processes and dispositions. Drawing from recent work on the normativity of automaticity and automatic control, we distinguish two kinds of metacognitive control: top-down, reflective control, on the one hand, and automatic, intuitive, feeling-based control on the other. Thus, we propose that whenever the mental process of remembering is controlled by means of intuitive or feeling-based metacognitive processes, it is an action. Continue reading Remembering As A Mental Action

The Good of Boredom

Andreas Elpidorou
Department of Philosophy
University of Louisville
andreas.elpidorou [at]


Abstract. I argue that the state of boredom (i.e., the transitory and non-pathological experience of boredom) should be understood to be a regulatory psychological state that has the capacity to promote our well-being by contributing to personal growth and to the construction (or reconstruction) of a meaningful life.   Continue reading The Good of Boredom

The Unity of Moral Attitudes: Recipe Semantics and Credal Exaptation

Derek Shiller
Abstract. Noncognitivists must account for the menagerie of moral attitudes of which we are psychologically capable. This paper offers a systematic explanation of these attitudes by means of a recipe semantics. Unlike extant noncognitivist theories, this proposal does not aim to justify the behavior of moral attitudes in terms of any underlying cognitive function. The recipe semantics allows us to characterize them in terms of the distinctive functions that their constituent components play in other contexts, while admitting that they may have no particular function in many. In order to make this more palatable, the paper concludes by offering an account of the evolution of normative attitudes that would make their occasional non-functionality unsurprising. Continue reading The Unity of Moral Attitudes: Recipe Semantics and Credal Exaptation

Implicit Bias and the Unconscious

Ege Yumusak
Harvard University


There is a desperation in all certainty.
William Kentridge


Implicit biases are largely automatic and unconscious evaluations that people possess. Implicit biases regarding race, for example, influence what their possessor will think when they see a Black man inside their neighbor’s house, or how they will position their body when there is an empty seat next to a Black stranger on the New York subway.[1] Contemporary philosophical attention has focused on implicit biases that are cognitive manifestations of prejudices against social groups like racism, sexism, or ageism. Attention to this subset is well-deserved, as relevant empirical data have been profoundly disconcerting. Studies have shown, in scenarios ranging from evaluation of job applications to treatment recommendations by physicians, that explicit views against such prejudices neither exempt subjects from possessing implicit biases, nor from acting on them. [2]

In this paper, I will argue that current prevalent views of implicit bias do not satisfyingly explain the pervasive and striking manifestations of implicit biases in ordinary life. Continue reading Implicit Bias and the Unconscious