A Modified Trolley Problem Procedure for Studying Dilemmic Decisions

Master's Thesis


The Trolley Problem (Foot, 1967) is a flexible moral dilemma often used within decision-making research as it enables researchers to investigate a variety of questions related to dilemmic decision-making. The current research introduces a modern variation on the Trolley Problem involving three different remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) simulation scenarios. Our objective was to investigate emotional engagement within dilemmic decision-making by increasing the emotional and social “value” of the one across three “missions.” Heart rate and decision time served as correlates for measuring emotional engagement. Results indicated that participants were less likely to sacrifice the one as its value increased. Further, emotional engagement varied across the three scenarios, evidenced heart-rate change and longer reaction times. These findings are discussed through a dual-process lens, emphasizing the interaction of reason and emotion in dilemmic decision-making. Implications of this research could be the first steps to a deeper understanding of RPA pilot decision-making.


Attribute NameValues
Author Julaine D. Zenk
Contributor Charles R. Crowell, Research Director
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name MA
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2018-11-06

Submission Date 2018-11-26
  • Trolley Problem

  • Moral Decision-Making

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft

  • Emotional Engagement

  • RPA

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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