Dual Processing of Moral Conflicts in Media Entertainment and Their Effect on Moral Judgement and Moral Reasoning

Natalie L. Bennie, Ray Celeste Tanner, Marina Krcmar


Moral conflict occurs readily in everyday life. Rarely are moral decisions without some ambiguity. In part because moral conflict is so prevalent in life and in part because it seems to be intrinsically absorbing, moral conflict is often present in narrative entertainment as well. Prior research has used a dual-system model of cognitive processing to examine media narratives and has found that moral conflict results in more reflective and systematic processing. However, the research to date leaves several unanswered questions regarding how moral conflict narratives are processed and how that processing influences moral judgement and moral reasoning. Therefore, we utilize a moral conflict manipulation and a cognitive load experimental paradigm in two separate studies to specifically explore how 1) different cognitive processing systems are used to understand moral conflict narratives, and 2) how moral conflict then can influence moral judgement and moral reasoning. Results of these studies point to the fact that moral conflict is processed through a dual system but that these systems likely operate on different aspects of the narrative: we judge quickly and intuitively, and we reason slowly, offering complex reasons. Overriding our cognitive capacity, however, may result in a diminished ability to see moral complexity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/jecs.v4n3p62


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