Deontological and utilitarian responses to sacrificial dilemmas predict disapproval of sin stocks

Paweł Niszczota, Michał Białek, Paul Conway

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Investors sometimes invest in so-called ‘sin’ stocks that cause social harm as a byproduct of doing business (e.g., tobacco companies). Two studies examined whether people who demonstrate moral concerns in sacrificial dilemmas approve less of investing in sin (but not conventional) stocks. We employed process dissociation to assess harm-rejection (deontological) and outcome-maximization (utilitarian) response tendencies independently. Study 1 (N=337) assessed moral approval of sin stocks (e.g., fur and gambling industries) and conventional stocks (e.g., water utilities and semiconductor producers). People scoring higher on deontological and utilitarian response tendencies disapproved of sin, but not conventional, stocks. Study 2 (N=402) replicated this effect for willingness to invest in companies abandoning (vs. retaining) socially responsible policies to maximize profits. These findings align with studies showing that people who care about morality demonstrate sensitivity to both deontological and utilitarian considerations, and clarify the psychology involved in morally questionable investment decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date31 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


  • moral psychology
  • moral dilemmas
  • process dissociation
  • sin stocks
  • socially responsible investment


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