• Simulating moral actions: An investigation of personal force in virtual moral dilemmas

      Francis, Kathryn B.; Terbeck, S.; Briazu, R.A.; Haines, A.; Gummerum, M.; Ganis, G.; Howard, I.S. (2017-10-24)
      Advances in Virtual Reality (VR) technologies allow the investigation of simulated moral actions in visually immersive environments. Using a robotic manipulandum and an interactive sculpture, we now also incorporate realistic haptic feedback into virtual moral simulations. In two experiments, we found that participants responded with greater utilitarian actions in virtual and haptic environments when compared to traditional questionnaire assessments of moral judgments. In experiment one, when incorporating a robotic manipulandum, we found that the physical power of simulated utilitarian responses (calculated as the product of force and speed) was predicted by individual levels of psychopathy. In experiment two, which integrated an interactive and life-like sculpture of a human into a VR simulation, greater utilitarian actions continued to be observed. Together, these results support a disparity between simulated moral action and moral judgment. Overall this research combines state-of-the-art virtual reality, robotic movement simulations, and realistic human sculptures, to enhance moral paradigms that are often contextually impoverished. As such, this combination provides a better assessment of simulated moral action, and illustrates the embodied nature of morally-relevant actions.
    • Virtual morality in the helping professions: Simulated action and resilience

      Francis, Kathryn B.; Gummerum, M.; Ganis, G.; Howard, I.S.; Terbeck, S. (2018-08)
      Recent advances in virtual technologies have allowed the investigation of simulated moral actions in aversive moral dilemmas. Previous studies have employed diverse populations to explore these actions, with little research considering the significance of occupation on moral decision‐making. For the first time, in this study we have investigated simulated moral actions in virtual reality made by professionally trained paramedics and fire service incident commanders who are frequently faced with and must respond to moral dilemmas. We found that specially trained individuals showed distinct empathic and related personality trait scores and that these declined with years of experience working in the profession. Supporting the theory that these professionals develop resilience in moral conflict, reduced emotional arousal was observed during virtual simulations of a distressing dilemma. Furthermore, trained professionals demonstrated less regret following the execution of a moral action in virtual reality when compared to untrained control populations. We showed that, contrary to previous research, trained individuals made the same moral judgements and moral actions as untrained individuals, though showing less arousal and regret. In the face of increasing concerns regarding empathy decline in health care professionals, we suggest that the nature of this decline is complex and likely reflects the development of a necessary emotional resilience to distressing events.
    • Virtual morality: Transitioning from moral judgment to moral action?

      Francis, Kathryn B.; Howard, C.; Howard, I.S.; Gummerum, M.; Ganis, G.; Anderson, G.; Terbeck, S. (2016-10-10)
      The nature of moral action versus moral judgment has been extensively debated in numerous disciplines. We introduce Virtual Reality (VR) moral paradigms examining the action individuals take in a high emotionally arousing, direct action-focused, moral scenario. In two studies involving qualitatively different populations, we found a greater endorsement of utilitarian responses±killing one in order to save many others±when action was required in moral virtual dilemmas compared to their judgment counterparts. Heart rate in virtual moral dilemmas was significantly increased when compared to both judgment counterparts and control virtual tasks. Our research suggests that moral action may be viewed as an independent construct to moral judgment, with VR methods delivering new prospects for investigating and assessing moral behaviour.