New Master Thesis Assignments

Moral dilemmas in crisis situations

Moral dilemmas in crisis situations

Master thesis project

In times of crisis or (potential) threats, mayors, (local) politicians and public managers often need to make difficult decisions with uncertain and considerable consequences. Think, for example, of a response to a face book message inviting thousands of followers to come to party, a decision to evacuate farmers after a flooding, or to make a vaccination obligatory for religious groups.

Such (moral) decisions are affected by several factors such as the specific role the decision makers foregrounds (Krosch, Figner & Weber, 2012). A mayor, for example, can focus on her role as figurehead (taking a prominent role in the media), governor (focusing on the law and administration aspects of the situation) or in her role as caring for citizens who were victimized by the situation. The specific role that is taken affects the decision that is made as well as post-decisional processes such as regret.

Other relevant factors are the available time to make the decision or workload. This relates to more fundamental questions such as whether moral decisions are made intuitively, based on deontological considerations (harming others is wrong) or analytically, based on utilitarian considerations (harming others can be acceptable depending on the consequences) (Bialek & De Neys, 2016).

The present project elaborates on these findings in identifying psychological mechanisms underlying moral decision making.


Experimental research

Starting literature

  • Bialek, N. & De Neys, W. (2016). Conflict detection during moral decision-making: evidence for deontic reasoners’ utilitarian sensitivity. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 28, 631-639.
  • Krosch, A., Figner, B., & Weber, E. U. (2012). Choice processes and their post-decisional consequences in morally conflicting decisions. Judgment and Decision Making, 7, 224-234.


Can be started directly.

Are you interested in this topic? Please contact the coordinator Sven Zebel (