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Protected values: No omission bias and no framing effects


Previous studies have suggested that people holding protected values (PVs) show a bias against harmful acts, as opposed to harmful omissions (omission bias). In the present study, we (1) investigated the relationship between PVs and acts versus omissions in risky choices, using a paradigm in which act and omission biases were presented in a symmetrical manner, and (2) examined whether people holding PVs respond differently to framing manipulations. Participants were given environmental scenarios and were asked to make choices between actions and omissions. Both the framing of the outcomes (positive vs. negative) and the outcome certainty (risky vs. certain) were manipulated. In contrast to previous studies, PVs were linked to preferences for acts, rather than for omissions. PVs were more likely to be associated with moral obligations to act than with moral prohibitions against action. Strikingly, people with strong PVs were immune to framing; participants with few PVs showed robust framing effects.


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Correspondence to Carmen Tanner.

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This research was supported by Swiss National Science Foundation Grant 8210-61241 to the first author and NSF Grant SES-9910156 to the second author.

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Tanner, C., Medin, D.L. Protected values: No omission bias and no framing effects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 11, 185–191 (2004).

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  • Moral Obligation
  • Carbon Dioxide Emission
  • Risky Choice
  • Human Decision Process
  • Loss Framing