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Alexandra Surdina

 Alexandra Surdina


Research Interests:

My main research interests lie in the areas of moral psychology and computational cognitive science. In my PhD, I aim to use computational techniques (such as Bayesian models) to improve our understanding of morality.

How does the way we make moral decisions differ from conventional judgement and decision-making? Is rationality and the pursuit of optimisation a universal value or a morality-dependent one? In recent years, along with the increased popularity of a dual-system framework in JDM literature, a strong case has been made that moral judgement is not purely reasoning-based and intuitive responses play a prominent role. Based on this ‘social intuitionist’ framework, Moral Foundations Theory describes the moral domain in terms of a small number of moral foundations – fundamental categories that appear to predict an individual’s moral judgment. Yet, mainstream utilitarianism mainly considers harm in its utility calculations. Some properties of moral decision-making are inherent to its functional role, and thus have to appear in any attempt to formalise morality – such as in the field of machine ethics – while others may exist merely due to limited computational resources available in the human brain. Understanding the functional role of the other moral foundations will allow us to build computational level models that exhibit similar functional and observable properties as human moral judgment, and can capture and ultimately predict human moral behaviour.

Contact Details

Dr Adam Sanborn (Department of Psychology)
Jim Smith (Department of Statistics)