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Dr Kathryn B Francis
Virtual morality in the helping professions: Simulated action and resilience

Posted on 23 November 2017

Kathryn published at the British Journal of Psychology

Kathryn B. Francis published in British Journal of Psychology. The article, titled "Virtual morality in the helping professions: Simulated action and resilience", investigates moral decision-making in paramedics and incident command officers from the fire service. Kathryn and her co-authors show that moral judgments and simulated moral actions (in virtual reality) are similar in trained professionals and control groups (with no training). Importantly, trained professionals demonstrate a degree of resilience when simulating moral actions and report less regret when asked about the moral decision that they made. Personality traits associated with distress and emotionality were found to decline with years of experience working in the helping professions, perhaps reflecting the necessary development of resilience in professions where exposure to distressing events is frequent. This study suggests that both the nature of moral decision-making and the apparent 'empathy decline' in emergency service professionals is complex; a particularist approach is needed, that takes into account both the individual and the context in which an action is made.

Kathryn completed her PhD in CogNovo working on project #19 "Moral cognition: An interdisciplinary investigation of judgment versus action" which investigated the relationship between moral action and judgment using state-of-the-art technologies. Kathryn is now working at the University of Reading as a postdoctoral fellow in an interdisciplinary project exploring the psychology of philosophical thought experiments.