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).


Summer 2014 - Spring 2015

Team Outputs

Rebecca Brenner, Anthony N. Oliveri, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Edward D. Levin. “Effects of Sub-Chronic Methylphenidate on Risk-Taking and Sociability in Zebrafish (Danio Rerio).” 2020. Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology:1-9.

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)

This Team in the News

These Ph.D. Graduates Incorporated Bass Connections into Their Doctoral Education

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

Team Leaders

  • Philip Costanzo, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Edward Levin, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Arts & Sciences-Philosophy
  • Jesse Summers, Kenan Institute for Ethics|Arts & Sciences-Other - A&S

/graduate Team Members

  • Eleanor Hanna, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM
  • Victoria Lee, Psychology-PHD
  • Anthony Oliveri, Pharmacology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

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