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Surviving at any cost: guilt expression following extreme ethical conflicts in a virtual setting.

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

PLoS One, Volume 9, Issue 7, p.e101711 (2014)

Abstract:

<p>Studying human behavior in response to large-scale catastrophic events, particularly how moral challenges would be undertaken under extreme conditions, is an important preoccupation for contemporary scientists and decision leaders. However, researching this issue was hindered by the lack of readily available models. Immersive virtual worlds could represent a solution, by providing ways to test human behavior in controlled life-threatening situations. Using a massively multi-player zombie apocalypse setting, we analysed spontaneously reported feelings of guilt following ethically questionable actions related to survival. The occurrence and magnitude of guilt depended on the nature of the consequences of the action. Furthermore, feelings of guilt predicted long-lasting changes in behavior, displayed as compensatory actions. Finally, actions inflicting immediate harm to others appeared mostly prompted by panic and were more commonly regretted. Thus, extreme conditions trigger a reduction of the impact of ethical norms in decision making, although awareness of ethicality is retained to a surprising extent.</p>

Funding / Support / Partners

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