Folk Judgments About Mood Enhancement: Well-being Trumps Set Points

  • Jack BuchananEmail author
  • Chandra Sripada
Original Research


We investigate implicit principles that inform folk moral judgments about mood enhancement. We presented a series of vignettes involving mood enhancement to lay participants via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. We hypothesized that in making intuitive moral determinations about the appropriateness of enhancement, participants would rely primarily on set points (specifically, how far away from “normal” a character’s mood is prior to or after intervention). Contrary to our hypotheses, set point was not strongly predictive of enhancement judgments. Instead, participants’ perception of the mood enhancement’s effect on the long-term well-being of the character in the vignette was robustly correlated with participants’ approval ratings for the enhancement. Long-term well-being predicted enhancement judgments even after controlling for perceived medical necessity (whether the character is perceived to have a medical need for mood improvement), indicating that long-term well-being does not simply serve as a proxy for medical judgments being applied to enhancement. This work highlights the centrality of well-being in folk judgments about enhancement and generates new considerations for adjudicating among competing views in the enhancement debate.


Mood enhancement Transcranial stimulation Pharmacological enhancement Moral judgment Experimental philosophy Mental health Psychiatry 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Our survey and data collection methods were approved by the University of Michigan’s Human Subjects Research Ethics Board, which approved a complete waiver of informed consent. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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