Locus of Control and the Dynamics of Moral Fluctuation and Rationalization

Laura Arhiri, Andrei Holman


This article presents the results of research in which the participants were exposed to a moral dilemma opposing two alternatives defined in terms of saving human lives, in two different moments three weeks apart. The two dilemmas employed were almost identical, with only one difference: while the hypothetical scenario, presented in the first moment, was purely impersonal, a relevant interpersonal aspect was inserted in the second dilemma. The results reveal a choice reversal phenomenon from the first – impersonal – scenario to the second – personal. Also, at both moments, the participants filled in a scale evaluating their moral attitude, concerning their standing on a continuum ranging from the utilitarian to the deontological end – the two ethical perspectives which apply to the dilemma presented. Results show moral attitude variations from the first measurement to the second, suggesting that even if in the personal dilemma their decision stemmed from emotional reasons rather than ethical ones, they also display a moral rationalization phenomenon, through their increased adherence to the deontological perspective that could morally justify the chosen action. Locus of control had a significant role in these variations: the participants with an internal locus of control expressing more extreme moral attitudes in both situations –toward the two opposing ethical stances from one moment to the next – as compared to those with an external locus of control.

moral dilemma, utilitarianism, deontology, locus of control, moral rationalization, ethical systems

ANDREI HOLMAN – Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” of Iaşi;

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