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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Moral Identity Picture Scale (MIPS): Measuring the Full Scope of Moral Identity

Amelia Goranson, Connor O’Fallon, & Kurt Gray
Research Paper, in press


Morality is core to people’s identity. Existing moral identity scales measure good/moral vs. bad/immoral, but the Theory of Dyadic Morality highlights two-dimensions of morality: valence (good/moral vs. bad/immoral) and agency (high/agent vs. low/recipient). The Moral Identity Picture Scale (MIPS) measures this full space through 16 vivid pictures. Participants receive scores for each of four moral roles: hero, villain, victim, and beneficiary. The MIPS can also provide summary scores for good, evil, agent, and patient, and possesses test-retest reliability and convergent/divergent validity. Self-identified heroes are more empathic and higher in locus of control, villains are less agreeable and higher in narcissism, victims are higher in depression and lower in self-efficacy, and beneficiaries are lower in Machiavellianism. Although people generally see themselves as heroes, comparisons across known-groups reveals relative differences: Duke MBA students self-identify more as villains, UNC social work students self identify more as heroes, and workplace bullying victims self-identify more as victims. Data also reveals that the beneficiary role is ill-defined, collapsing the two-dimensional space of moral identity into a triangle anchored by hero, villain, and victim.

From the Discussion

We hope that, in providing this new measure of moral identity, future work can examine a broader sense of the moral world—beyond simple identifications of good vs. evil—using our expanded measure that captures not only valence but also role as a moral agent or patient. This measure expands upon previous measures related to moral identity (e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002; Barriga et al., 2001; Reimer & Wade-Stein, 2004), replicating prior work that we divide the moral world up into good and evil, but demonstrating that the moral identification space includes another component as well: moral agency and moral patiency. Most past work has examined this “agent” side of moral identity—heroes and villains—but we can gain a fuller and more nuanced view of the moral world if we also examine their counterparts—moral patients/recipients. The MIPS provides us with the ability to examine moral identity across these 2 dimensions of valence (positive vs. negative) and agency (agent vs. patient).