Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Tracy Packiam Alloway

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Wolff

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Two studies were conducted to support the dual process model of moral decision making, which states that there are two pathways to moral decisions: one emotional and the other cognitive. Decisions made in personal dilemmas are driven by emotions and intuition, while decisions made in impersonal dilemmas are driven by cognitive factors. Intuitive, emotional reactions tend to lead to non-utilitarian decisions while deliberative reasoning tends to lead to utilitarian decisions. For the current studies, undergraduate students from the University of North Florida completed working memory tests, an empathy scale, and also responded to moral dilemma scenarios. In the second study, participants were asked to respond to the moral dilemma scenarios in the following conditions: baseline, working memory condition (counting task), cold water (cold pressor task), and warm water. In Study 1, participants in the high working memory group had slower reaction times while responding to self dilemmas. In Study 2, the empathy item “I feel other people’s joy” was the best predictor of participants’ utilitarian decisions. These results are framed in terms of the dual process model and possible directions for future research.