Jeffrey S. Sinn, Matthew W. Hayes
First published: August 2016
Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) explains liberal-conservative differences as arising from different moral intuitions, with liberals endorsing “individualizing” foundations (Harm and Fairness) and conservatives also endorsing “binding” foundations (Authority, Respect, and Purity). We argue these labels misconstrue ideological differences and propose Evolutionary-Coalitional Theory (ECT) as an alternative, explaining how competitive dynamics in the ancestral social environment could produce the observed ideological differences. We test ECT against MFT across three studies. Study 1 shows the so-called “binding” orientation entails the threat-sensitivity and outgroup antagonism predicted by ECT; that is, an authoritarian motive. Similarly, Study 2 shows the so-called “individualizing” orientation is better described as a universalizing motive, one reflecting a broader set of moral commitments (e.g., to nature) and a broader sociality than the egocentrism implied by MFT. Study 3 provides a factor analysis reducing “binding” to authoritarianism and “individualizing” to universalism, with the latter loading against social dominance orientation (SDO). A hierarchical regression then provides additional evidence for ECT, showing this dominating motive (SDO) accounts for variance in conservatism that MFT leaves unexplained. Collectively, these three studies suggest that ECT offers a more accurate and precise explanation of the key psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.
The article is here.