Moral Judgments by and about Stimulant Users (2014-2015)

This project team explored moral attitudes, decisions and judgments about regular use of stimulants (both illegal and prescription, such as Ritalin and Adderall) used therapeutically, recreationally or as cognitive enhancers (with or without a prescription). The specific questions that the team considered were:

  1. How different are the moral judgments of users and nonusers? This includes judgments of moral responsibility for any resulting harms or unfairness.
  2. Do differences in moral judgments explain why some people use and others do not?
  3. Are these moral judgments based on harm to self or others or, instead, on fairness or on disgust at perceived impurity or unnaturalness? Does the basis of these judgments vary between users and non-users?

The project team constructed and administered surveys to Duke students and to the general population. These surveys attempted to clarify whether and how people distinguish heavy use, dependence and addiction, when they view such use as morally wrong or bad and whether they hold stimulant users responsible for any harm they cause. Team members assessed such attitudes through web-based questionnaires and tests of implicit moral attitudes (e.g., Implicit Association Test).

Timing

Summer 2014 - Spring 2015

Team outcomes

Moral Judgments and Attitudes Predicting Legal and Illegal Stimulant Use (poster by Dustin L. Hadfield; presented at Duke)

Moral Judgments and Attitudes Predicting Legal and Illegal Stimulant Use (poster by Dustin L. Hadfield; presented at Psychological Undergraduate Research Conference, UCLA)

Personality as a Moral Regulator of Illicit Stimulant Use Attitudes (poster by Lauren Miranda)

Effects of Methylphenidate on Risk Taking and Sociability in Adult Zebrafish (poster by Rebecca Brenner, Anthony Oliveri and Edward Levin)

Ethical Issues of Treating Children with ADHD Medications: Implications of High Rates of Misdiagnosis (poster by Rebecca Brenner)

Faster, Higher, Smarter? Psychological and Ethical Aspects of Cognitive Enhancements, Mar. 31 (symposium)

Additional support for this project was provided by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections.

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Philip Costanzo, Trinity - Psychology & Neuroscience*
Edward Levin, School of Medicine - Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences*
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Trinity - Philosophy*
Jesse Summers, Kenan Institute for Ethics; Duke Social Science Research Institute*

Graduate Team Members

Eleanor Hanna, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Victoria Lee, Undeclared
Anthony Oliveri, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

Undergraduate Team Members

Rebecca Brenner, Neuroscience (BS), Philosophy (AB2)
Dustin Hadfield
Hajung Kim, Neuroscience (BS)
Danica Liu, Neuroscience (BS), Philosophy (AB2)
Lauren Miranda, Psychology (BS)

* denotes team leader

Status

Completed, Archived