When people must either save a greater number of people from a smaller harm or a smaller number from a greater harm, do their choices reflect a reasonable moral outlook? We pursue this question with the help of an experiment. In our experiment, two-fifths of subjects employ a similarity heuristic. When alternatives appear dissimilar in terms of the number saved but similar in terms of the magnitude of harm prevented, this heuristic mandates saving the greater number. In our experiment, this leads to choices that are inconsistent with all standard theories of justice. We argue that this demonstrates the untrustworthiness of distributive judgements in cases that elicit similarity-based choice.

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Keywords distributive justice, heuristics, moral decision-making, reflective equilibrium, similarity
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0266267118000457, hdl.handle.net/1765/120418
Series VSNU Open Access deal
Journal Economics and Philosophy
Voorhoeve, A. (Alex), Stefánsson, A. (Arnaldur), & Wallace, B. (Brian). (2019). Similarity and the trustworthiness of distributive judgements. Economics and Philosophy (Vol. 35, pp. 537–561). doi:10.1017/S0266267118000457