Elke Weber

Choice processes and their consequences in morally conflicting military decisions

Coauthor(s): Amy R. Krosch, Bernd Figner.


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In a study of choice conflict in moral decisions, 63 participants read and evaluated two military scenarios that presented a choice between following a military ethic and a humanitarian ethic, based on accounts from Canadian peacekeepers. Participants' skin conductance, continuously recorded throughout the experiment, served as an indicator of arousal. Not surprisingly, differences in perceived choice option characteristics predicted choice, with participants choosing the option they rated more favorably on multiple characteristics. However, self-reports of the use of different modes of arriving at their decision predicted choice even better. Analytic decision modes predicted following the military ethic, affect-based decision modes predicted following the humanitarian ethic, and the choice that followed rule-based decision modes depended on the scenario. Simultaneous use of modes that indicated opposite choices caused significantly more decision difficulty and post-choice worry. Projections of post-decision worry were related to skin conductance-indicated arousal during decision making. Observed relationships between the use of competing decision modes, arousal, and post-decisional worry in morally conflicting choices may have implications for treatment and prevention of posttraumatic stress in soldiers and peacekeepers.

Source: Working paper
Exact Citation:
Krosch, Amy R., Bernd Figner, and Elke Weber. "Choice processes and their consequences in morally conflicting military decisions." Working paper, Columbia Business School, February 9, 2011.
Date: 9 2 2011