COVID-19 Pandemic, Rationality of Choice and Moral Dilemmas



In his article, the author describes the COVID-19 pandemic as a unique situation on a global scale, which has brought a number of eternal questions from the philosophical-speculative plane to the most practical. In fact, it made it a matter of “life and death” for every person. First of all, this is a question of moral choice in a situation with a high degree of uncertainty — between personal freedom and personal restrictions for the benefit of other people. The article also analyzes strategies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in different countries and the consequences of their implementation in relation to moral dilemmas. Based on an analysis of international experience, the psychological features of the introduction of restrictions and external state and public control (as examples of the implementation of a universal rational approach) are discussed. The author takes into account socio-economic statistics accumulated over two years (excess mortality, gross domestic product, etc.), which show that in the context of a pandemic, a rational construct, which provides for the renunciation of some personal freedoms by citizens for the sake of the public good, is preferable to an empirical one, in which people they are given the right to make their own moral choice - to renounce freedoms or not. At the same time, the author comes to the conclusion that, along with the advantages, rationalization can have disadvantages. Namely: long-term risks associated with society’s gradual abandonment of personal freedoms and democracy and a return to an authoritarian system.

General Information

Keywords: moral dilemma, moral choice, rationality, rationality of choice, prisoner`s dilemma, freedom, safety, decision-making, COVID-19

Journal rubric: Axiological and Personality-Oriented Basis of Cooperation and Interaction of Educational Environment Subjects

Article type: scientific article


Received: 27.05.2023


For citation: Pervushin N.S. COVID-19 Pandemic, Rationality of Choice and Moral Dilemmas [Elektronnyi resurs]. Vestnik prakticheskoi psikhologii obrazovaniya = Bulletin of Psychological Practice in Education, 2023. Vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 102–115. DOI: 10.17759/bppe.2023200308. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Aleksina T.A. Etika globaliziruyushchegosya mira [Ethics of the Globalising World]. Vestnik Rossiiskogo universiteta druzhby narodov. Seriya: Filosofiya = RUDN Journal of Philosophy, 2013, no. 3, pp. 64–74. (In Russ.).
  2. Apressyan** R.G. Svoboda: opyty osmysleniya i perezhivaniya [Freedom: Understanding and Experiences] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Eticheskaya mysl’ = Ethical Thought, 2017. Vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 56–69. doi:10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-56-69 (In Russ.).**the author was entered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in the register of foreign agents.
  3. Winkelman A.M. Lozhnye dilemmy moral’noi filosofii: o romane U. Stairona “Vybor Sofi” [False Dilemmas of Moral Philosophy: On the William Styron’s Novel “Sophie’s Choice”]. Filosofiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki = Philosophy. Journal of the Higher School of Economics, 2017. Vol. I, no. 2, pp. 187–198. (In Russ.).
  4. Gobbs T. Leviafan, ili Materiya, forma i vlast’ gosudarstva tserkovnogo i grazhdanskogo. In Gobbs T. Sochineniya: V 2 t. T. 2. Moscow: Mysl’, 1991. (In Russ.).
  5. Granovskaya O.L. Isaiya Berlin i neogobbsianstvo: interpretatsiya publichnoi ratsional’nosti [Isaiah Berlin and neo-hobbesians: interpretation of public rationality]. Teoriya i praktika obshchestvennogo razvitiya = Theory and Practice of Social Development, 2015, no. 10, pp. 194–196. (In Russ.).
  6. Enikolopov S.N., Medvedeva T.I., Boyko O.M., Vorontsova O.Yu., Kazmina O.Yu. Prinyatie moral’nykh reshenii vo vremya pandemii COVID-19 [Moral decision-making during the COVID-19pandemic] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriya 14. Psikhologiya = Moscow University Psychology Bulletin, 2020, no. 4, pp. 22–43. doi:10.11621/vsp.2020.04.02 (In Russ.).
  7. Kabanov K.V. Osobennosti rekonstruktsii situatsii moral’nogo vybora, osushchestvlyayushchegosya v sferakh sotsial’nogo vzaimodeistviya, reguliruemymi raznymi normativnymi sistemami [Peculiarities of Reconstruction of a Situation of the Moral Choice, which is Unfolding in the Spheres of Social Interaction, regulated by Different Normative Systems] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Nauchnoe obozrenie. Seriya 2. Gumanitarnye nauki = Scientific Review. Series 2. Human Sciences, 2018, no. 2-3, pp. 96–111. doi:10.26653/2076-4685-2018-2-3-08 (In Russ.).
  8. Kahneman D., Tversky A. Ratsional’nyi vybor, tsennosti i freimy [The rational choice, values and frames]. Psikhologicheskii zhurnal = Psychological Journal, 2003. Vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 31–42. (In Russ.).
  9. Komkova E.I., Konon S.N. Irratsional’nost’ vybora v zavisimosti ot svoistv lichnosti studentov raznykh spetsial’nostei [Irrationality of choice depending of personality of students of different specialities]. Innovatsionnye obrazovatel’nye tekhnologii = Innovative Educational Technologies, 2016, no. 2 (46), pp. 31–36. (In Russ.).
  10. Krushelnitskaya O.B., Marinova T.Y., Pogodina A.V., Raskhodchikova M.N., Tolstykh N.N. Normativnoe povedenie v situatsii pandemii COVID-19: kak dobit’sya ego soblyudeniya u studentov? [Regulatory Behavior in the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Get Students to Comply with It?] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sotsial’naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2021. Vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 198–221. doi:10.17759/sps.2021120113 (In Russ.).
  11. Lukovtseva Z.V. Pandemiya COVID-19 kak sotsial’nyi stressor: faktory psikhologo-psikhiatricheskogo riska (po materialam zarubezhnykh issledovanii) [The COVID-19 Pandemic as a Social Stressor: Psychological and Psychiatric Risk Factors (Based on Foreign Studies)] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sotsial’naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2020. Vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 13–25. doi:10.17759/sps.2020110402 (In Russ.).
  12. Makintair A. Posle dobrodeteli: issledovaniya teorii morali. Moscow; Yekaterinburg, 2000. (In Russ.).
  13. Pervushina O.N., Shabalin A.P. Pandemiya COVID-19: obzor pervykh publikatsii [COVID-19 Pandemic: A Review of the First Publications] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Reflexio, 2020. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 5–29. doi:10.25205/2658-4506-2020-13-2-5-29 (In Russ.).
  14. Pervushin N.S. “Dvoinye poslaniya” (double bind) v rossiiskikh media v period epidemii COVID-19 [Double Bind in Russian Media during the COVID-19 Epidemic] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Reflexio. 2020. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 44–65. doi:10.25205/2658-4506-2020-13-2-44-65 (In Russ.).
  15. Poddiakov A.N., Plyaskina A.S. Initsiativnaya samorefleksiya pri reshenii moral’noi dilemmy (na materiale zadachi “Aziatskaya bolezn’”). Mir psikhologii = The World of Psychology, 2018, no. 3, pp. 96–104. (In Russ.).
  16. Razin A.V. Moral’nye dilemmy [Moral Dilemmas]. Vestnik Rossiiskogo universiteta druzhby narodov. Seriya: Filosofiya = RUDN Journal of Philosophy, 2014, no. 2, pp. 66–82. (In Russ.).
  17. Fromm E. Begstvo ot svobody [Escape from Freedom]. Moscow: Progress, 1989. (In Russ.).
  18. Hauser M.D. Moral’ i razum: kak priroda sozdavala nashe universal’noe chuvstvo dobra i zla [Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong]. Moscow: Drofa, 2008. (In Russ.).
  19. Shabalin A.P., Pervushina O.N. Problema moral’nogo vybora: mezhdistsiplinarnyi podkhod [The problem of moral decision making: an interdisciplinary approach]. Reflexio, 2017. Vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 37–56. (In Russ.).
  20. Baier K. The Rational and the Moral Order. The Social Roots of Reason and Morality. Chicago, 1995.
  21. Becker G. Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach. Journal of Political Economy, 1968. Vol. 76, no. 2, pp. 169. doi:10.1086/259394
  22. Carron R., Blanc N., Brigaud E. Contextualizing sacrificial dilemmas within Covid-19 for the study of moral judgment. PLOS ONE, 2022. Vol. 17, no. 8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0273521
  23. Chater N. Facing up to the Uncertainties of COVID-19. Nature Human Behaviour, 2020. Vol. 4, no. 5, pp. 439. doi:10.1038/s41562-020-0865-2
  24. Chorus C.G. Models of moral decision making: Literature review and research agenda for discrete choice analysis. Journal of Choice Modelling, 2015. Vol. 16, pp. 69–85.
  25. Christensen J.F., Gomila A. Moral dilemmas in cognitive neuroscience of moral decision-making: A principled review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 2012. Vol. 36, pp. 1249–1264.
  26. COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. URL: (Accessed 14.01.2022).
  27. Donagan A. The Theory of Morality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977.
  28. Everett J.A.C. et al. Moral dilemmas and trust in leaders during a global health crisis. Nature Human Behaviour, 2021. Vol. 5, no. 8, pp. 1074–1088. doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01156-y
  29. Excess mortality during COVID-19. Our World in Data. URL: (Accessed 14.01.2022).
  30. Francis K., McNabb C. Moral Decision-Making During COVID-19: Moral Judgements, Moralisation, and Everyday Behaviour. Frontiers in Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.769177
  31. Greene J.D., Nystrom L.E., Engell A.D., Darley J.M., Cohen J.D. The neural bases of cognitive conflict and control in moral judgment. Neuron, 2004. Vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 389–400. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.09.027
  32. Hale T., Angrist N., Goldszmidt R. et al. A global panel database of pandemic policies (Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker). Nature Human Behaviour, 2021. Vol. 5, pp. 529–538. doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01079-8
  33. Harsanyi J. Can the Maximin Principle Serve as a Basis for Morality? A Critique of John Rawls’s Theory. American Political Science Review, 1975. Vol. 69, no. 2, pp. 594–606. doi:10.2307/1959090
  34. Macintyre A. Moral dilemmas. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 1990. Vol. 50. Supplement, pp. 367–382. doi:10.2307/2108048
  35. Maggu G., Sharma S., Jaishy R., Jangid S. COVID-19 moral dilemmas viewed through Eastern and Western philosophy. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 2021. Vol. 30. Supplement 1, pp. S273–S276. doi:10.4103/0972-6748.328828
  36. McCracken L.M., Badinlou F, Buhrman M, Brocki K.C. Psychological impact of COVID-19 in the Swedish population: Depression, anxiety, and insomnia and their associations to risk and vulnerability factors. European Psychiatry, 2020. Vol. 63, no. 1. doi:10.1192/j.eurpsy.2020.81
  37. Policy Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Our World in Data. URL: (Accessed 14.01.2022).
  38. Poundstone W. Prisoner’s Dilemma. New York: Anchor, 1993.
  39. Rawls J. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
  40. Recovery During a Panedmic. World Economic Outlook. October 2021. International Monetary Fund. URL: (Accessed 14.01.2022).
  41. Romero-Rivas C., Rodríguez-Cuadrado S. Moral decision-making and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. PsyArXiv Preprints, 2020. doi:10.31234/
  42. Tutić A., Krumpal I., Haiser F. Triage in Times of COVID-19: A Moral Dilemma. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2022. Vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 560–576. doi:10.1177/00221465221080958
  43. Valera L., Carrasco M., Castro R. Fallacy of the last bed dilemma. Journal of Medical Ethics, 2022. Vol. 48, no. 11, pp. 915–921. doi:10.1136/medethics-2021-107333

Information About the Authors

Nikolay S. Pervushin, MA in Sociology, Senior Lecturer, Department of Personality Psychology, Junior Researcher, The Center for Behavior Analysis, V. Zelman Institute for the Medicine and Psychology, Novosibirsk State University, Novosibirsk, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 87
Previous month: 37
Current month: 20


Total: 85
Previous month: 35
Current month: 37