Seminar: Switching Tracks? A Two-Dimensional Model of Utilitarian Psychology

  • Datum: 15.12.2020
  • Uhrzeit: 15:30
  • Vortragender: Jim A.C. Everett
  • Ort: online
  • Gastgeber: Center for Humans and Machines
  • Kontakt:

Jim A.C. Everett, University of Kent

Switching Tracks? A Two-Dimensional Model of Utilitarian Psychology

A great deal of work in moral psychology has used sacrificial trolley-style dilemmas to shed light on the psychological processes and individual differences associated with “utilitarianism”. Such work has yielded important insight into our understanding of instrumental harm, but there are other – more prototypical - ways in which utilitarianism, as an ethical theory, departs from common-sense moral intuitions. While utilitarianism permits harming innocent individuals when this maximises aggregate utility (instrumental harm), it also tells us to treat with equal importance the interests of all individuals affected, without giving priority to oneself or those to whom one is especially close (impartial beneficence). While more fundamental to the utilitarian ideal, such impartial beneficence has received scant empirical attention. Jim A.C. Everett will present work showing that these dimensions are not merely conceptually distinct but empirically distinct, presenting research documenting distinct patterns of individual differences, evidence they are underpinned by different processes, and work showing they have distinct consequences for social evaluation. If we wish to understand proto-utilitarian psychology – and especially if we want to draw normative conclusions from such work - is crucial to adopt a multidimensional approach, looking at both instrumental harm and impartial beneficence.

Jim A.C. Everett is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Kent and Research Associate at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, specializing in moral judgment, perceptions of moral character, and parochial altruism. Jim completed his BA, MSc, and D.Phil at the University of Oxford, before receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to work at Harvard University, and a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie PostDoctoral Fellowship to work at Leiden University. Jim’s work is deeply interdisciplinary, and alongside traditional social psychological approaches he draws from philosophy, evolutionary theory, and behavioural economics. Jim has published his work in leading journals such as Psychological Review, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. His research has been featured in The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, Scientific American, and more. Jim has received a prestigious Early Career Award from the European Association of Social Psychology to recognise his research contributions to the field, and his joint-first-authored paper in Psychological Review received the 2019 Wegner Theoretical Innovation Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

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