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Pathological Personality Traits and Utilitarian Moral Judgments

Recent research has highlighted important individual differences in moral judgment. The present study extends these findings by examining the associations between pathological personality traits and utilitarian moral judgments. This was accomplished by asking 2,121 Israeli community members to complete self-report measures concerning their pathological personality traits and evaluate the acceptability of utilitarian moral judgments in various sacrificial dilemmas (is it acceptable to intentionally kill one person in order to save several other people?). The results showed that the pathological personality traits of antagonism and disinhibition were positively associated with the endorsement of personal utilitarian moral judgments (i.e., those decisions requiring the individual to directly inflict harm on the would-be sacrificed individual), whereas negative affectivity was negatively associated with personal utilitarian moral judgments. Antagonism was the only pathological personality trait associated with impersonal utilitarian moral judgments (i.e., those decisions that did not require the individual to directly inflict harm on the would-be sacrificed individual). Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for understanding the associations between pathological personality traits and moral judgments.

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