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http://pps.sagepub.com/ SciencePerspectives on Psychological http://pps.sagepub.com/content/5/2/209The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1745691610362362 2010 5: 209Perspectives on Psychological ScienceMax H. Bazerman and Joshua D. Greeneon Bennis, Medin, & Bartels (2010)Commentary−−In Favor of Clear Thinking: Incorporating Moral Rules Into a Wise Cost-Benefit Analysis Published by: http://www.sagepublications.comOn behalf of: Association For Psychological Science can be found at:Perspectives on Psychological ScienceAdditional services and information for http://pps.sagepub.com/cgi/alertsEmail Alerts: http://pps.sagepub.com/subscriptionsSubscriptions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.navReprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navPermissions: at Harvard Libraries on July 27, 2010pps.sagepub.comDownloaded fromIn Favor of Clear Thinking: IncorporatingMoral Rules Into a Wise Cost-BenefitAnalysis—Commentary on Bennis,Medin, & Bartels (2010)Max H. Bazerman1and Joshua D. Greene21Harvard Business School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and2Department of Psychology, Harvard University,Cambridge, MAAbstractBennis, Medin, and Bartels (2010, this issue) have contributed an interesting article on the comparative benefit of moral rulesversus cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Many of their specific comments are accurate, useful, and insightful. At the same time, webelieve they have misrepresented CBA and have reached a set of conclusions that are misguided and, if adopted wholesale,potentially dangerous. Overall, they offer wise suggestions for making CBA more effective, rather than eliminating CBA as adecision-making tool.Keywordsmorality, ethics, cost-benefit analysis, rationalityBennis, Medin, and Bartels (2010, this issue; BMB for the restof the article) argue persuasively that laboratory experimental-ists should not assume that study participants accept the prob-lems presented to them as we intended. They note thatpsychological research can be used to understand what alterna-tive formulations of the problem might be present in the mindsof study participants. BMB also make it clear that a full-blowncost-benefit analysis (CBA)1is not necessary for every deci-sion (e.g., what clothes Bill Gates should select each morning).Insightful decision analysts would agree (e.g., Hammond,Keeney, & Raiffa, 1999). BMB also highlight that bad decisionanalysis is harmful; again, good decision analysts would con-cur. Finally, BMB highlight the need to extend and replicateresearch to respond to alternative explanations other than thosepreferred by the experimenter, including those that come fromthinking about the phenomenology of the study participant andmoral rules. From there, BMB offer unjustifiable prescriptionsfor decision making. Our disagreement with these recommen-dations is the basis of this response.BMB make their argument against a straw man. They arguethat CBA focuses on a deprived utility function in which thedecision maker cares only about his/her own measurable,narrowly specified outcomes. In fact, no serious economist,decision analyst, or behavioral decision researcher in 2009believes that decision makers are only entitled to this limitedarray of value. Contemporary decision analysis readily allows,incorporates, and encourages the consideration and valuationof fairness, the outcomes of others, symbolic acts, unintendedconsequences, precedent setting, and even moral rules (Bazerman& Moore, 2008; Hammond et al., 1999). Thus, the argumentthat people value issues other than outcomes simply has littlerelevance to the value of CBA. This problem is connected toour disagreement with BMB on three issues, each of whichare outlined in the following sections of this article.Closed-World Assumptions, Science, andthe Relevance to Real-World MoralityBMB criticize a variety of research streams that suggest thesuperiority of CBA on the grounds that the experiments in thesestreams use what BMB refer to as ‘‘closed-world assump-tions.’’ In these problems, study participant are expected to useCorresponding Author:Max H. Bazerman, Harvard Business School, Baker Library 453, Soldiers Field,Boston, MA 02163E-mail: [email protected] on Psychological Science5(2) 209–212ª The Author(s) 2010Reprints and permission:sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/1745691610362362http://pps.sagepub.com209 at Harvard Libraries on July 27, 2010pps.sagepub.comDownloaded fromonly the information presented in the laboratory problem whenmaking their decisions. One example of a closed-worldproblem is the set of trolley problems described in BMB. Theycontrast the results of the bystander problem (often referred toas the switch problem) with those of the footbridge problem.Critical of the argument that people should only make utilitar-ian calculations based on CBA when deciding, BMB argue thatstudy participants are factoring in valid concerns when theyevaluate the two problems differently.BMB assume that study participants add valid, useful, andinsightful inputs to these problems. But participants couldinstead be allowing their emotions to take over in a manner thatis inconsistent with their underlying preferences. Greene et al.(2009) show that the added information that study participantsmight have added to the bystander problem (the open-worldadditions) does not account for much of the difference betweenhow study participants differentially respond. Rather, Greene,Sommerville, Nystrom, Darley, and Cohen (2001) providefMRI evidence that the footbridge problem triggers processingin brain regions more closely associated with emotions. And,more recently, multiple studies have shown that patients withemotion-related neurological damage are dramatically morelikely to make utilitarian judgments (Ciaramelli, Muccioli,Ladavas, & di Pellegrino, 2007; Koenigs et al., 2007; Mendez,Anderson, & Shapira, 2005).As BMB note, one explanation of the difference between thebystander problem and the footbridge problem is the directnessof how the study participant affects the one individual whowould be killed through action. In Paharia, Kassam, Greene, andBazerman (in press), we developed a very different moral prob-lem based on the directness hypothesis coupled with a story fromAugust 2005, in which Merck sold the rights to manufacture andmarket a cancer drug called Mustargen to Ovation Pharmaceuti-cals. In this story, soon after Merck sold Mustargen to


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