Gregory Mitchell

Situated Identities Constrain Morally-Defensible Choices

CO-AUTHORS Philip E. Tetlock
Perspectives on Psychological Science

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations


Conceptual distinctions that loom large to philosophers—such as the distinction between utilitarian and deontic decision norms—may be far less salient to most other mortals. Building on an intuitive-politician model of judgment and choice and on the empirical work reported by Bennis, Medin, and Bartels (2010, this issue), we argue that the overriding goal of most decision makers in the paradigms under scrutiny is to offer judgments that are readily defensible and that reinforce their social identities as both cognitively flexible (responsive to evidence and cost-benefit considerations) and morally principled (prepared to defend sacred values and censure those who do not). People are best classified neither as utilitarians nor Kantians but rather as pragmatic social beings embedded in complex cultural-political systems.


Gregory Mitchell & Philip E. Tetlock, Situated Identities Constrain Morally-Defensible Choices, 5 Perspectives on Psychological Science 206–208 (2010).

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