Earlier this year, The New York Times profiled Adolfo Kaminsky. Born in Argentina to a Russian Jewish family, Kaminsky was raised in Paris during the Nazi occupation and eventually deported and interned at Drancy, the last stop on the way to Auschwitz. Unlike other children, however, Kaminsky had an Argentinian passport. The consulate intervened, and he was saved. After a chance meeting with the Jewish resistance, Kaminsky discovered that his experience with inks and chemicals, gained during an apprenticeship dying clothes, could help him forge official documents to save other Jewish families. He learned quickly. Eventually, Kaminsky learned of an immanent mass deportation, having only a few days to save hundreds of families. “It’s a simple calculation,” he told the Times. “In one hour I can make 30 blank documents; if I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die.” Kaminsky worked tirelessly through two nights, saving hundreds.
Moral philosophers like Peter Singer argue that the situation of a modern and affluent Westerner is remarkably similar to Kaminsky’s. It may make a less gripping backdrop than World War II, but 300,000 children die every year from malaria, and results from more than 20 randomized controlled trials suggest that about $3,500 spent on insecticide treated bed nets can save one child. If every American felt a small fraction of the obligation to prevent harm that Kaminksy felt, we could save 300,000 children every year from dying. So why does the moral obligation seem so much stronger to forge a passport but not to donate money when the outcome, saving lives, is the same? What are the factors that determine when we feel an obligation and when we don't? And how can we leverage this research to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world?
These are the questions I want to answer with my research, and here's some work I've already done:
- Chituc, V., Henne, P., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., De Brigard, F. (2016). Blame, Not Ability, Impacts Moral "Ought" Judgments for Impossible Actions: Toward an empirical refutation of "ought" implies "can." Cognition.
- Henne, P., Chituc, V., De Brigard, F., Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2016) An Empirical Refutation of "Ought" Implies "Can." Analysis.
- Kelly, M., Ngo, L., Chituc, V., Huettel, S., Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2017). Moral conformity in online interactions: rational justifications increase influence of peer opinions on moral judgments. Social Influence
- Strohminger, N., Gray, K., Chituc, V., Heffner, J., Schein, C., & Heagins, T. B. (2015). The MR2: A multi-racial, mega-resolution database of facial stimuli. Behavior research methods, 1-8.
- Edwards, B. E., Rottman, B., Shankar, M., Betzler, R., Chituc, V., Rodriguez, R., Silva, L., Wibecan, L., Widness, J. & Santos, L. R. (2014). Do capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) diagnose causal relations in the absence of a direct reward? PLoS ONE 9(2): e88595. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088595
- Gjersoe, N. L., Newman, G., Chituc, V., and Hood, B. (2014). Individualism and the extended-self: Cross-cultural differences in the valuation of authentic objects. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90787. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090787
Under Review / Revision
- Chituc, V., Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Social Conformity in Moral Judgment and its Philosophical Lessons. (in prep).
- Garcia-Rada, X., Chituc, V., Nichols, A., Mann, H., Campbell, T., Ariely, D. The moral degradation of bribes. (Adding a control and follow-up study in response to reviewer comments)
- Ansher, C., Chituc, V., Wolfe, J., Ariely, D. Explaining Preferences for Natural Medicine: Anticipated side effects more strongly motivate treatment preferences than expected benefits. (Under Review)
- Wolfe, J. Chituc, V., Ariely, D. All That Twitters Is Not Gold: How Verbally Documenting An Experience Affects Enjoyment (In Prep)
- Strohminger, N., Chituc, V., and Schwarz, N. Is alacrity the soul of wit? (Adding one additional study in response to reviewer comments)
- Chituc, V. (2016) Toward an Empirical Refutation of “Ought” Implies “Can.” Invited presentation at the Center for Research in Applied Ethics at the University of Bucharest, with commentary by Toni Gibea. Bucharest, Romania.
- Chituc, V., Henne, P., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., & De Brigard, F. (2016) Blame, not ability, impacts moral “ought” judgments for impossible actions: Toward an empirical refutation of ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. Contributed Session on Agency and Morality, presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Austin, TX.
- Chituc, V., Henne, P., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., & De Brigard, F. (2015) You Ought to but You Can't: Blame Drives Judgments of the Ought-Implies-Can Principle. Poster presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Durham, NC.
- Santos, L. R., Edwards, B. J., Rottman, B., Chituc, V. & Edwards, J. (2011) Do capuchin monkeys diagnose causal structure? Talk presented at the 7th biennial meeting of the Cognitive Development Society. Philadelphia, PA.