Research

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Publications

  1. Zamzow, J.L. Rules and principles in moral decision making: An empirical objection to moral particularism. Forthcoming in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

  2. Zamzow, J.L., & Nichols, S. (2009). Variations in ethical intuitions. Philosophical Issues, 19, 368-388.

  3. Lopez, T., Zamzow, J., Gill, M., & Nichols, S. (2009). Side constraints and the structure of commonsense ethics. Philosophical Perspectives, 23, 305-319.


Current Research

Drafts available upon request


“Affective forecasting in medical decision making: What do physicians owe their patients?”

In order for patients to make good medical decisions, it is important that they are able to make accurate  affective forecasts—predictions of how different outcomes will impact their experiential quality of life.  This raises an important question for medical ethics: Do physicians have an obligation to help their patients make accurate affective forecasts?  It might seem that judgments about how the patient will feel about different outcomes are the patient’s responsibility because she is supposed to be the expert on her own beliefs, values, feelings, and experiences. The problem is that research on affective forecasting shows that people are poor predictors of their own future feelings.  I argue that assisting patients with their affective forecasting should be among the professional duties of physicians because, unlike auto mechanics, bankers, or sales representatives, physicians have a professional duty of beneficence.  This gives them an obligation to try to help their patients engage in good deliberation and make good decisions when they are in a good position to do so qua physicians, and they are arguably in a good position qua physicians to assist their patients with their affective forecasting given the unique knowledge, perspective, skills, and potential resources physicians have.  Their experience with other patients in similar situations gives them a better sense for what it is like for patients in such conditions, their third-person perspective may lead them to better appreciate different aspects of the decision, and they can better take advantage of decision aids and training in the psychological mechanisms that lead to affective forecasting errors to help them recognize and combat affective forecasting errors in their patients.


“In defense of the first-person perspective in ethics”

All of our judgments about what we should do in moral situations must be made from some perspective or point of view.  Our default perspective for moral deliberation is first personal.  From this perspective, you focus on how you view the situation.  You can override your default perspective, however, and try to take an impartial third-person perspective by imagining how someone who is impartial would judge your situation.  There is a presumption in ethics that we should privilege a third-person perspective because it helps us avoid self-bias and make more objective judgments.  I argue that empirical evidence suggests that taking a first-person perspective might actually help us engage in better moral deliberation.  First, the first-person perspective gives us privileged access to the moral emotion guilt, which can make the effects of our actions on others more salient to us.  Second, psychological research suggests that it will make us more likely to take into account the particular details of the situation.  Third, research on personal involvement suggests that taking a first-person point of view will motivate us to engage in more reflective cognitive processing and be more discriminating of arguments.


“Why Jurors Should Not Maintain an Objective Perspective”

I argue that jurors should not try to maintain an ‘objective’ perspective by judging the case from an external, detached point of view so as to not be biased in favor of any one party.  Instead, jurors should try to take the point of view of the defendant by actively imagining how he or she perceived the situation and how he or she felt.  Taking the defendant’s perspective should help jurors make fairer and more accurate judgments because perspective taking reduces psychological distance, which will make jurors less likely to engage in stereotyping and more likely to account for situational factors.