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Friday, September 29, 2017

The Dark Side of Morality: Group Polarization and Moral-Belief Formation

Marcus Arvan
University of Tampa

Most of us are accustomed to thinking of morality in a positive light. Morality, we say, is a matter of “doing good” and treating ourselves and each other “rightly.” However, moral beliefs and discourse also plausibly play a role in group polarization, the tendency of social groups to divide into progressively more extreme factions, each of which regards other groups to be “wrong.” Group polarization often occurs along moral lines, and is known to have many disturbing effects, increasing racial prejudice among the already moderately prejudiced, leading group decisions to be more selfish, competitive, less trusting, and less altruistic than individual decisions, eroding public trust, leading juries to impose more severe punishments in trial, generating more extreme political decisions, and contributing to war, genocide, and other violent behavior.

This paper argues that three empirically-supported theories of group polarization predict that polarization is likely caused in substantial part by a conception of morality that I call the Discovery Model—a model which holds moral truths exist to be discovered through moral intuition, moral reasoning, or some other process.

The paper is here.