To gain insight into the reasons that the public may have for endorsing or eschewing pharmacological moral enhancement for themselves or for others, we used empirical tools to explore public attitudes towards these issues. Participants (N = 293) from the United States were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and were randomly assigned to read one of several contrastive vignettes in which a 13-year-old child is described as bullying another student in school and then is offered an empathy-enhancing program. The empathy-enhancing program is described as either involving taking a pill or playing a video game on a daily basis for four weeks. In addition, participants were asked to imagine either their own child bullying another student at school, or their own child being bullied by another student. This resulted in a 2 × 2 between-subjects design. In an escalating series of morally challenging questions, we asked participants to rate their overall support for the program; whether they would support requiring participation; whether they would support requiring participation of children who are at higher risk to become bullies in the future; whether they would support requiring participation of all children or even the entire population; and whether they would be willing to participate in the program themselves. We found that people were significantly more troubled by pharmacological as opposed to non-pharmacological moral enhancement interventions. The results indicate that members of the public for the greater part oppose pharmacological moral bioenhancement, yet are open to non-biomedical means to attain moral enhancement. [248 words].

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Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine

Specker, J., Schermer, M., & Reiner, P. (2017). Public Attitudes Towards Moral Enhancement. Evidence that Means Matter Morally. Neuroethics, 1–13. doi:10.1007/s12152-017-9340-9