Year of Publication


Season of Publication


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


As both a Working Memory (WM) task and as a more integrated reasoning process, moral decision making appears susceptible to interference by nociceptive stimuli. Differentiation, however, between conflicting occupation of WM resources and the influence of pain-induced autonomic activation as potential pathways of interaction represents a considerably more difficult task than simple measurement of WM performance. To clarify the basis of any noted effects, this study recorded both self-report pain intensity and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) as a separate measure of autonomic activation under a cold pressor task using a sample of 122 undergraduate participants. Recorded pain and physiological data was compared to rates of utilitarian decision making in the provided moral dilemmas. While there were significantly lower rates of utilitarian decision making in the pain condition, a warm-water painless condition showed comparably decreased rates. Comparison with GSR data suggests that the pain condition did not induce a significantly heightened state of autonomic activation. This suggests that while divided attention or occupation of WM resources does effect patterns of moral decision making, this is not reliant on a nociceptive stimulus.