Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

The Effects of the Internet on Moral Decision Making

  Ruairi Blake (2020 cohort)

The internet has, for better or worse, allowed for the quick spreading, archiving, and retrieval of information on a scale not even considered possible for most of human history. Given this massive technological change, and the way it has come to shape our lives, it should be no surprise that there is an entire field of psychology dedicated to measuring the effects of the internet on people: Cyberpsychology. While there is a subsection of this field that investigates moral decision making, it most often focuses on how moral decisions are made while using the internet.

Through this PhD, I plan to explore the possibility that using the internet, being exposed to the possibility of learning anything and reaching anyone, may cause some people to begin thinking of the full chain of consequences of their actions rather than just those that directly affect themselves. Notably, this includes how such decision making processes are affected outside of the online context.

I think through this lens we might be able to predict (or even encourage) moral shifts in our society. Increasingly people are employing ideas of ethical consumerism; a large element in the growing concept of climate justice is empathy and duty to people you’ll never meet.

Do the consequences of your actions on someone half the world away reflect on you? Does that change if you’re able to create direct links between your action and the consequence? We are all able to know what the furthest consequences of a purchasing decision are; Do we have an obligation to learn the full extent of our impact on others we will never meet? These are all questions we answer as individuals, and this project is going to focus on what influences people’s answers.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1).