Rutjens BT, Heine SJ
(2016) PLoS ONE 11(4): e0152798.
Do people think that scientists are bad people? Although surveys find that science is a highly respected profession, a growing discourse has emerged regarding how science is often judged negatively. We report ten studies (N = 2328) that investigated morality judgments of scientists and compared those with judgments of various control groups, including atheists. A persistent intuitive association between scientists and disturbing immoral conduct emerged for violations of the binding moral foundations, particularly when this pertained to violations of purity. However, there was no association in the context of the individualizing moral foundations related to fairness and care. Other evidence found that scientists were perceived as similar to others in their concerns with the individualizing moral foundations of fairness and care, yet as departing for all of the binding foundations of loyalty, authority, and purity. Furthermore, participants stereotyped scientists particularly as robot-like and lacking emotions, as well as valuing knowledge over morality and being potentially dangerous. The observed intuitive immorality associations are partially due to these explicit stereotypes but do not correlate with any perceived atheism. We conclude that scientists are perceived not as inherently immoral, but as capable of immoral conduct.
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