Response Time and Heart Rate in a Moral Dilemma

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Abstract

Is altruism the intuitive behavior in a moral dilemma? Or is selfishness the spontaneous behavior? To answer this question, a dictator game was played in which measures of response time and heart rates were taken with treatments that slightly differ only in the cost associated with the choice of a selfish responding. We find that neither altruism nor egoism is an intuitive process for everyone; rather, altruism is intuitive for altruistic subjects while egoism is intuitive for selfish subjects so that when these subjects are confronted with the choice of the opposite, less probable options, they become more reflective by taking longer time to respond. Lastly, during the decision period, a subject that is altruistic has a higher probability of experiencing an increase in the mean heart rate than a subject that is selfish.

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