Master's Theses

Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Dr. Janett Naylor-Tincknell


The present study experimentally investigated the effects of stress, in the form of mortality salience, on decision regret in participants presented with the trolley problem. Participants (N = 166) were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk and randomly assigned to a mortality salience or threatening control topic (dental pain) writing prompt and either the standard trolley problems (i.e., the "switch" and "footbridge" dilemmas) or an experimental reversal where the default was five people on the tracks instead of the usual one. The effects of mortality salience on affective regret, the trolley reversal on cognitive regret, and the relationship between mortality salience and utilitarian choices were examined. While findings were not significant, this study did reveal that the experimental trolley reversal has a significant impact on choosing other than the status quo in the trolley problem. Further research examining the extraneous factors which may have contributed to nonsignificant results in this study is needed.


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