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Monday, July 23, 2018

Assessing the contextual stability of moral foundations: Evidence from a survey experiment

David Ciuk
Research and Politics
First Published June 20, 2018


Moral foundations theory (MFT) claims that individuals use their intuitions on five “virtues” as guidelines for moral judgment, and recent research makes the case that these intuitions cause people to adopt important political attitudes, including partisanship and ideology. New work in political science, however, demonstrates not only that the causal effect of moral foundations on these political predispositions is weaker than once thought, but it also opens the door to the possibility that causality runs in the opposite direction—from political predispositions to moral foundations. In this manuscript, I build on this new work and test the extent to which partisan and ideological considerations cause individuals’ moral foundations to shift in predictable ways. The results show that while these group-based cues do exert some influence on moral foundations, the effects of outgroup cues are particularly strong. I conclude that small shifts in political context do cause MFT measures to move, and, to close, I discuss the need for continued theoretical development in MFT as well as an increased attention to measurement.

The research is here.

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