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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00268

It´s harder to push, when I have to push hard – Physical exertion and fatigue changes reasoning and decision-making on hypothetical moral dilemmas in males

 Matthias Weippert1*,  Michel Rickler1, Steffen Kluck1, Kristin Behrens2, Manuela Bastian3,  Anett Mau-Moeller1,  Sven Bruhn1 and  Alexander Lischke4
  • 1University of Rostock, Germany
  • 2Internationale Studien und Berufsakademie, Berufsakademie, Germany
  • 3Universitätsmedizin Rostock, Germany
  • 4University of Greifswald, Germany

Despite the prevalence of physical exertion and fatigue during military, firefighting and disaster medicine operations, sports or even daily life, their acute effects on moral reasoning and moral decision-making have never been systematically investigated. To test the effects of physical exertion on moral reasoning and decision-making, we administered a moral dilemma task to 32 male participants during a moderate or high intensity cycling intervention. Participants in the high intensity cycling group tended to show more non-utilitarian reasoning and more non-utilitarian decision-making on impersonal but not on personal dilemma than participants in the moderate intensity cycling group. Exercise-induced exertion and fatigue, thus, shifted moral reasoning and moral decision-making in a non-utilitarian rather than utilitarian direction, presumably due to an exercise-induced limitation of prefrontally mediated executive resources that are more relevant for utilitarian than non-utilitarian reasoning and decision-making.

Keywords: Effort (strain), utiliarianism, Fatigue, Exercise & Cognition, cortisol, Exertion

Received: 17 Jul 2018; Accepted: 22 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Gennady Knyazev, State Scientific-Research Institute of Physiology & Basic Medicine, Russia

Reviewed by:

Claudio Lucchiari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
Valerio Capraro, Middlesex University, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Weippert, Rickler, Kluck, Behrens, Bastian, Mau-Moeller, Bruhn and Lischke. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Matthias Weippert, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany,