Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Behaviors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Behaviors. Show all posts

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The paucity of morality in everyday talk

Atari, M., Mehl, M.R., Graham, J. et al. 
Sci Rep 13, 5967 (2023).


Given its centrality in scholarly and popular discourse, morality should be expected to figure prominently in everyday talk. We test this expectation by examining the frequency of moral content in three contexts, using three methods: (a) Participants’ subjective frequency estimates (N = 581); (b) Human content analysis of unobtrusively recorded in-person interactions (N = 542 participants; n = 50,961 observations); and (c) Computational content analysis of Facebook posts (N = 3822 participants; n = 111,886 observations). In their self-reports, participants estimated that 21.5% of their interactions touched on morality (Study 1), but objectively, only 4.7% of recorded conversational samples (Study 2) and 2.2% of Facebook posts (Study 3) contained moral content. Collectively, these findings suggest that morality may be far less prominent in everyday life than scholarly and popular discourse, and laypeople, presume.


Overall, the findings of this research suggest that morality is far less prevalent in everyday talk than previously assumed. While participants overestimated the frequency of moral content in their self-reports, objective measures revealed that moral topics are relatively rare in everyday conversations and online interactions.

The study's authors propose several explanations for this discrepancy between subjective and objective findings. One possibility is that people tend to remember instances of moral talk more vividly than other types of conversation. Additionally, people may be more likely to report that they engage in moral talk when they are explicitly asked about it, as this may make them more aware of their own moral values.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, the findings of this research suggest that morality is not as prominent in everyday life as is often assumed. This may have implications for how we understand and promote moral behavior in society.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Dehumanization: Beyond the Intergroup to the Interpersonal

Karantzas, G. C., Simpson, J. A., & Haslam, N. (2023).
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 0(0).


Over the past two decades, there has been a significant shift in how dehumanization is conceptualized and studied. This shift has broadened the construct from the blatant denial of humanness to groups to include more subtle dehumanization within people’s interpersonal relationships. In this article, we focus on conceptual and empirical advances in the study of dehumanization in interpersonal relationships, with a particular focus on dehumanizing behaviors. In the first section, we describe the concept of interpersonal dehumanization. In the second section, we review social cognitive and behavioral research into interpersonal dehumanization. Within this section, we place special emphasis on the conceptualization and measurement of dehumanizing behaviors. We then propose a conceptual model of interpersonal dehumanization to guide future research. While doing so, we provide a novel review and integration of cutting-edge research on interpersonal dehumanization.


This review shines a spotlight on interpersonal dehumanization, with a specific emphasis on dehumanizing behaviors. Our review highlights that interpersonal dehumanization is a rapidly expanding and innovative field of research. It provides a clearer understanding of the current and emerging directions of research investigating how even subtle forms of negative behavior may, at times, thwart social connection and human bonding. It also provides a theoretical platform for scholars to launch new streams of research on interpersonal dehumanization processes and outcomes.

My summary

Traditionally, dehumanization has been studied in the context of intergroup conflict and prejudice, where individuals or groups are perceived as less human than others. However, recent research has demonstrated that dehumanization can also manifest in interpersonal interactions, affecting how individuals perceive, treat, and interact with each other.

The article argues that interpersonal dehumanization is a prevalent and impactful phenomenon that can have significant consequences for both individuals and relationships. It can lead to reduced empathy, increased hostility, and justification for aggression and violence.

The authors propose a conceptual model of interpersonal dehumanization that identifies three key components:

Dehumanizing Cognitions & Perceptions: The tendency to view others as less human-like, lacking essential human qualities like emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Dehumanizing Behaviors: Actions or expressions that convey a disregard for another's humanity, such as insults, mockery, or exclusion.

Dehumanizing Consequences: The negative effects of dehumanization on individuals and relationships, including reduced empathy, increased hostility, and justification for aggression.

By understanding the mechanisms and consequences of interpersonal dehumanization, we can better address its prevalence and mitigate its harmful effects. The article concludes by emphasizing the importance of fostering empathy, promoting inclusive environments, and encouraging respectful interactions to combat dehumanization and promote healthy interpersonal relationships.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

I’m a psychology expert in Finland, the No. 1 happiest country in the world—here are 3 things we never do

Frank Martela
Originally posted 5 Jan 23

For five years in a row, Finland has ranked No. 1 as the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. 

In 2022′s report, people in 156 countries were asked to “value their lives today on a 0 to 10 scale, with the worst possible life as a 0.” It also looks at factors that contribute to social support, life expectancy, generosity and absence of corruption.

As a Finnish philosopher and psychology researcher who studies the fundamentals of happiness, I’m often asked: What exactly makes people in Finland so exceptionally satisfied with their lives?

To maintain a high quality of life, here are three things we never do:

1. We don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.

Focus more on what makes you happy and less on looking successful. The first step to true happiness is to set your own standards, instead of comparing yourself to others.

2. We don’t overlook the benefits of nature.

Spending time in nature increases our vitality, well-being and a gives us a sense of personal growth. Find ways to add some greenery to your life, even if it’s just buying a few plants for your home.

3. We don’t break the community circle of trust.

Think about how you can show up for your community. How can you create more trust? How can you support policies that build upon that trust? Small acts like opening doors for strangers or giving up a seat on the train makes a difference, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Sexuality Training in Counseling Psychology: A Mixed-Methods Study of Student Perspectives

Abbott, D. M., Vargas, J. E., & Santiago, H. J. (2022).
Journal of Counseling Psychology. 
Advance online publication.


Counseling psychologists are a cogent fit to lead the movement toward a sex-positive professional psychology (Burnes et al., 2017a). Though centralizing training in human sexuality (HS; Mollen & Abbott, 2021) and sexual and reproductive health (Grzanka & Frantell, 2017) is congruent with counseling psychologists’ values, training programs rarely require or integrate comprehensive sexuality training for their students (Mollen et al., 2020). We employed a critical mixed-methods design in the interest of centering the missing voices of doctoral-level graduate students in counseling psychology in the discussion of the importance of human sexuality competence for counseling psychologists. Using focus groups to ascertain students’ perspectives on their human sexuality training (HST) in counseling psychology, responses yielded five themes: (a) HST is integral to counseling psychology training, (b) few opportunities to gain human sexuality competence, (c) inconsistent training and self-directed learning, (d) varying levels of human sexuality comfort and competence, and (e) desire for integration of HST. Survey responses suggested students were trained on the vast majority of human sexuality topics at low levels, consistent with prior studies surveying training directors in counseling psychology and at internship training sites (Abbott et al., 2021; Mollen et al., 2020). Taken together, results suggested students see HST as aligned with the social justice emphasis in counseling psychology but found their current training was inconsistent, incidental rather than intentional, and lacked depth. Recommendations, contextualized within counseling psychology values, are offered to increase opportunities for and strengthen HST in counseling psychology training programs. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Impact Statement

The present study suggests that counseling psychology graduate students perceive human sexuality training (HST) as valuable to their professional development and congruent with counseling psychology values. Findings support the integration of consistent, comprehensive, sex-positive HST in doctoral counseling psychology training programs. 


Comprehensive training in human sexuality represents a notable omission from counseling psychology training, particularly in light of the discipline’s values including emphases on diversity, social justice, and contextual, holistic perspectives. In the present study, the first to explore counseling psychology student perceptions of sexuality training, participants outlined the importance of HST to counseling psychology training, specifically, and providing psychotherapeutic services, broadly, outlined the current nature of their training, or lack thereof, and conveyed their desire for HST including recommendations for how programs may successfully implement HST in ways that benefitted students and the public they serve. Therefore, we call on faculty in counseling psychology training programs to reevaluate their commitment to developing sexuality competence among their students, invest in their own sexuality training as needed, and invoke creative strategies to make HST accessible and comprehensive in their programs.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

What nudge theory got wrong

Tim Harford
The Financial Times
Originally posted 

Here is an excerpt:

Chater and Loewenstein argue that behavioural scientists naturally fall into the habit of seeing problems in the same way. Why don’t people have enough retirement savings? Because they are impatient and find it hard to save rather than spend. Why are so many greenhouse gases being emitted? Because it’s complex and tedious to switch to a green electricity tariff. If your problem is basically that fallible individuals are making bad choices, behavioural science is an excellent solution.

If, however, the real problem is not individual but systemic, then nudges are at best limited, and at worst, a harmful diversion. Historians such as Finis Dunaway now argue that the Crying Indian campaign was a deliberate attempt by corporate interests to change the subject. Is behavioural public policy, accidentally or deliberately, a similar distraction?

A look at climate change policy suggests it might be. Behavioural scientists themselves are clear enough that nudging is no real substitute for a carbon price — Thaler and Sunstein say as much in Nudge. Politicians, by contrast, have preferred to bypass the carbon price and move straight to the pain-free nudging.

Nudge enthusiast David Cameron, in a speech given shortly before he became prime minister, declared that “the best way to get someone to cut their electricity bill” was to cleverly reformat the bill itself. This is politics as the art of avoiding difficult decisions. No behavioural scientist would suggest that it was close to sufficient. Yet they must be careful not to become enablers of the One Weird Trick approach to making policy.


Behavioural science has a laudable focus on rigorous evidence, yet even this can backfire. It is much easier to produce a quick randomised trial of bill reformatting than it is to evaluate anything systemic. These small quick wins are only worth having if they lead us towards, rather than away from, more difficult victories.

Another problem is that empirically tested, behaviourally rigorous bad policy can be bad policy nonetheless. For example, it has become fashionable to argue that people should be placed on an organ donor registry by default, because this dramatically expands the number of people registered as donors. But, as Thaler and Sunstein themselves keep having to explain, this is a bad idea. Most organ donation happens only after consultation with a grieving family — and default-bloated donor registries do not help families work out what their loved one might have wanted.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior

Sigal Samuel 
Originally posted 31 MAY 22

Here is an excerpt:

Inspired by the program in Liberia, Chicago has been implementing a similar but more intensive program called READI. Over the course of 18 months, men in the city’s most violent districts participate in therapy sessions in the morning, followed by job training in the afternoon. The rationale for the latter is that in a place with a well-developed labor market like Chicago, the best way to improve earnings is probably to get people into the market, whereas in Liberia, the labor market is much less efficient, so it made more sense to offer people cash.

“We’ll have more results this summer,” said Blattman of the READI program, which he is helping to advise. So far, “it doesn’t look like a slam dunk.”

Still, Chicago is eager to try these therapy-based approaches, having already had some success with them. The city is also home to a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), where high schoolers do CBT-inspired group sessions. A randomized controlled trial showed that criminal arrests fell by about half during the BAM program. Even though effects dissipated over time, the program looks to be very cost-effective.

But this isn’t just a story about the growing recognition that therapy can play a useful role in preventing crime. That trend is part of a broader movement to adopt an approach to crime that is more carrot, less stick.

“It’s all about a progressive, rational policy for social control. Social inclusion is the most productive means of social control,” David Brotherton, a sociologist at the City University of New York, explained to me in 2019.

Brotherton has long argued that mainstream US policy is counterproductively coercive and punitive. His research has shown that helping at-risk people reintegrate into mainstream society — including by offering them cash — is much more effective at reducing violence.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Christian Right is violating the First Amendment by banning abortion

Noah Berlatsky
NBC News Cultural Critic
Originally published 18 JUN 22

The anti-abortion rights movement is largely faith based. Catholics and evangelical Christians argue that life begins at conception, and that fetuses have souls. On those grounds, they want to prevent anyone from obtaining abortion services.

They’ve had a good deal of success with that recently. A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggests the high court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, effectively gutting the constitutional right to abortion. In anticipation, many conservative states have passed sweeping anti-abortion legislation.

But not everyone is Christian. And imposing Christian morality and Christian dogma on non-Christians is a good working definition of religious tyranny — which the First Amendment of the Constitution explicitly rejects. 

That principle of religious freedom is the basis of a lawsuit brought by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a synagogue in Boynton Beach, Florida, against a sweeping state abortion ban set to take effect on July 1. Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor is challenging a single law on behalf of a single religion. But the case is also a broader challenge to the anti-abortion rights movement, which conflates a right-wing Christian demand for forced birth with universal morality, and insists on subjugating the country to a sectarian code.

The new Florida law bans most abortions after 15 weeks. There are no exceptions for cases of incest, rape or human trafficking. It does allow an abortion to save a pregnant person’s life or to prevent serious physical injury. But these exceptions aren’t enough to keep the law from violating the free exercise of the Jewish faith. The congregation’s lawsuit states that the Florida law violates Jewish religious beliefs holding that abortion “is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman,” among other reasons.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

How Plain Talk Helps You "Walk the Walk"

Brett Beasley
Notre Dame Center for Ethical Leadership
Originally posted April 2022

Here is an excerpt:

How Unclear Values Cloud Our Moral Vision

Was Orwell right? Some may disagree with his take on the link between bad writing and bad politics. But it appears that Orwell's theory applies well to something he never considered: Corporate values statements. A new study shows that unclear writing in values statements matters. Unclarity sends a signal that a corporation can't be trusted. And, according to the study's authors, it's a reliable signal, too. They find that corporations that hide behind fuzzy, unclear values often do have something to hide.

The team of researchers behind the study, led by David Markowitz (Oregon), considered the values statements of 188 S&P 500 manufacturing companies. Markowitz was joined by Maryam Kouchaki (Northwestern), Jeffrey T. Hancock (Stanford), and Francesca Gino (Harvard).

They drew inspiration from earlier studies that had shown that companies with negative annual earnings write in a less clear manner in their reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They reasoned that a similar process might occur with ethics as well.

Together the team was able to chronicle which companies had ethics infractions (like environmental violations, fraud, and anticompetitive activity). They also determined which codes of conduct were "linguistically obfuscated." These codes were full of abstraction, jargon, and long, overly complex explanations.

The results of the study proved their hypothesis correct: Companies with ethics infractions did resort to unclear language in order to hide them.

The researchers began to ask additional questions. They wanted to know if unclear language actually works. Does it effectively hide a company's problems? They showed corporate values statements to study participants and asked about their perceptions of the companies behind them. The participants saw the companies with clearly-written values statements as more moral, warmer, and more trustworthy, compared to those with jargon-laden values statements.

The Deception Spiral

Then the researchers decided to go a step further. They had shown that unclear language is often a consequence of unethical behavior. Now they wanted to see if it could cause unethical behavior as well. This would help them determine if something like the vicious cycle Orwell theorized really could exist.

This time, they took their work to the lab. They showed study participants values statements and then handed participants a list with scrambled words like “TTISRA” and “LONSEM.” They asked participants to unscramble the words and gave them opportunities to earn money. They introduced an element of competition as well. They could earn bonuses for unscrambling a greater number of words than 80% of the participants in their group.

At the same time, the researchers laid a trap. “TTISRA,” could be unscrambled to spell “ARTIST.” “LONSEM” could become “LEMONS.” But they included some words like OPOER, ALVNO, and ANHDU, which do not spell a word no matter how participants rearranged the letters. This trap enabled them to measure whether people cheated during the activity. If the participants said they unscramble the words without solutions, the researchers concluded they must have cheated in reporting their score.

The participants who had seen the unclear statements were more likely to cave to the temptation. Those who had seen the clear statement tended to stay on the moral path. Most importantly, this meant that the researchers had found clear support for a cycle similar to the one Orwell had described. This "deception spiral" as they call it, meant that unethical behavior can lead to unclear statements about values. And unclear statements about values can, in turn, contribute even more to unethical behavior.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Recognizing and Dismantling Raciolinguistic Hierarchies in Latinx Health

Ortega, P., et al.
AMA J Ethics. 2022;24(4):E296-304.
doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2022.296.


Latinx individuals represent a linguistically and racially diverse, growing US patient population. Raciolinguistics considers intersections of language and race, prioritizes lived experiences of non-English speakers, and can help clinicians more deftly conceptualize heterogeneity and complexity in Latinx health experiences. This article discusses how raciolinguistic hierarchies (ie, practices of attaching social value to some languages but not others) can undermine the quality of Latinx patients’ health experiences. This article also offers language-appropriate clinical and educational strategies for promoting health equity.


Hispanic/Latinx (hereafter, Latinx) individuals in the United States represent a culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse and rapidly growing population. Attempting to categorize all Latinx individuals in a single homogeneous group may result in inappropriate stereotyping,1 inaccurate counting,2, 3 ineffective health interventions that insufficiently target at-risk subgroups,4 and suboptimal health communication.5 A more helpful approach is to use raciolinguistics to conceptualize the heterogeneous, complex Latinx experience as it relates to health. Raciolinguistics is the study of the historical and contemporary co-naturalization of race and language and their intertwining in the identities of individuals and communities. As an emerging field that grapples with the intersectionality of language and race, raciolinguistics provides a unique perspective on the lived experiences of people who speak non-English languages and people of color.6 As such, understanding raciolinguistics is relevant to providing language-concordant care7 to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), who have been historically marginalized by structural barriers, racism, and other forms of discrimination in health care.

In this manuscript, we explore how raciolinguistics can help clinicians to appropriately conceptualize the heterogeneous, complex Latinx experience as it relates to health care. We then use the raciolinguistic perspective to inform strategies to dismantle structural barriers to health equity for Latinx patients pertaining to (1) Latinx patients’ health care experiences and (2) medical education.



A raciolinguistic perspective can inform how health care practices and medical education should be critically examined to support Latinx populations comprising heterogeneous communities and complex individuals with varying and intersecting cultural, social, linguistic, racial, ancestral, spiritual, and other characteristics. Future studies should explore the outcomes of raciolinguistic reforms of health services and educational interventions across the health professions to ensure effectiveness in improving health care for Latinx patients.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Generous with individuals and selfish to the masses

Alós-Ferrer, C.; García-Segarra, J.; Ritschel, A.
(2022). Nature Human Behaviour, 6(1):88-96.


The seemingly rampant economic selfishness suggested by many recent corporate scandals is at odds with empirical results from behavioural economics, which demonstrate high levels of prosocial behaviour in bilateral interactions and low levels of dishonest behaviour. We design an experimental setting, the ‘Big Robber’ game, where a ‘robber’ can obtain a large personal gain by appropriating the earnings of a large group of ‘victims’. In a large laboratory experiment (N = 640), more than half of all robbers took as much as possible and almost nobody declined to rob. However, the same participants simultaneously displayed standard, predominantly prosocial behaviour in Dictator, Ultimatum and Trust games. Thus, we provide direct empirical evidence showing that individual selfishness in high-impact decisions affecting a large group is compatible with prosociality in bilateral low-stakes interactions. That is, human beings can simultaneously be generous with others and selfish with large groups.

From the Discussion

Our results demonstrate that socially-relevant selfishness in the large is fully compatible with evidence from experimental economics on bilateral, low-stake games at the individual level, without requiring arguments relying on population differences (in fact, we found no statistically significant differences in the behavior of participants with or without an economics background). The same individuals can behave selfishly when interacting with a large group of other people while, at the same time, displaying standard levels of prosocial behavior in commonly-used laboratory tasks where only one other individual is involved. Additionally, however, individual differences in behavior in the Big Robber Game correlate with individual selfishness in the DG/UG/TG, i.e., Extreme Robbers gave less in the DG, offered less in the UG, and transferred less in the TG than Moderate Robbers.

The finding that people behave selfishly toward a large group while being generous toward individuals suggests that harming many individuals might be easier than harming just one, in line with received evidence that people are more willing to help one individual than many. It also reflects the tradeoff between personal gain and other-regarding concerns encompassed in standard models of social preferences, although this particular implication had not been demonstrated so far. When facing a single opponent in a bilateral game, appropriating a given monetary amount can result in a large interpersonal difference. When appropriating income from a large group of people, the same personal gain involves a smaller percentual difference. Correspondingly, creating a given level of inequality with respect to others results in a much larger personal gain when income is taken from a group than when it is taken from just another person, and hence it is much more likely to offset the disutility from inequality aversion in the former case.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction

Ecker, U.K.H., Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J. et al. 
Nat Rev Psychol 1, 13–29 (2022).


Misinformation has been identified as a major contributor to various contentious contemporary events ranging from elections and referenda to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only can belief in misinformation lead to poor judgements and decision-making, it also exerts a lingering influence on people’s reasoning after it has been corrected — an effect known as the continued influence effect. In this Review, we describe the cognitive, social and affective factors that lead people to form or endorse misinformed views, and the psychological barriers to knowledge revision after misinformation has been corrected, including theories of continued influence. We discuss the effectiveness of both pre-emptive (‘prebunking’) and reactive (‘debunking’) interventions to reduce the effects of misinformation, as well as implications for information consumers and practitioners in various areas including journalism, public health, policymaking and education.

Summary and future directions

Psychological research has built solid foundational knowledge of how people decide what is true and false, form beliefs, process corrections, and might continue to be influenced by misinformation even after it has been corrected. However, much work remains to fully understand the psychology of misinformation.

First, in line with general trends in psychology and elsewhere, research methods in the field of misinformation should be improved. Researchers should rely less on small-scale studies conducted in the laboratory or a small number of online platforms, often on non-representative (and primarily US-based) participants. Researchers should also avoid relying on one-item questions with relatively low reliability. Given the well-known attitude–behaviour gap — that attitude change does not readily translate into behavioural effects — researchers should also attempt to use more behavioural measures, such as information-sharing measures, rather than relying exclusively on self-report questionnaires. Although existing research has yielded valuable insights into how people generally process misinformation (many of which will translate across different contexts and cultures), an increased focus on diversification of samples and more robust methods is likely to provide a better appreciation of important contextual factors and nuanced cultural differences.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Democrats push for Supreme Court ethics code following Ginni Thomas revelations

Lauren Fedor 
The Financial Times
Originally published 29 MAR 22

Senior Democratic lawmakers are increasing calls to create a code of ethical conduct for the US Supreme Court amid mounting scrutiny of associate justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.

Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar, Democratic senators from Connecticut and Minnesota, respectively, and Hank Johnson, a Democratic representative from Georgia, have made a renewed push for the Supreme Court Ethics Act, a piece of legislation first introduced last summer to create a code of ethical conduct for America’s highest court.

Unlike other federal judges, Supreme Court justices are not required to follow the existing code of conduct.

The lawmakers said in a joint statement on Tuesday: “Recent revelations regarding the political activities of Supreme Court justices and their spouses have increased scrutiny of the court and eroded public confidence in the institution.”

The Washington Post first reported last week the existence of almost 30 text messages exchanged between Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, and Mark Meadows, the former Republican congressman who served as Donald Trump’s final chief of staff, in late 2020 and early 2021.

The texts showed Ginni Thomas repeatedly espousing conspiracy theories and pushing Meadows to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The publication of the messages has raised fresh questions about the independence of the federal judiciary and led several Democratic lawmakers to call for Thomas to recuse himself from cases relating to the 2020 election and the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Earlier this month, Ginni Thomas revealed in an interview that she had attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6.

Editor's Note: As a professional organization and highest court in the land, why does the Supreme Court not have a code of ethics?  More than slightly disturbing.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Christian Nationalism and Political Violence: Victimhood, Racial Identity, Conspiracy, and Support for the Capitol Attacks

Armaly, M.T., Buckley, D.T. & Enders, A.M. 
Polit Behav (2022). 


What explains popular support for political violence in the contemporary United States, particularly the anti-institutional mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol in January 2021? Recent scholarship gives reason to suspect that a constellation of beliefs known as “Christian nationalism” may be associated with support for such violence. We build on this work, arguing that religious ideologies like Christian nationalism should be associated with support for violence, conditional on several individual characteristics that can be inflamed by elite cues. We turn to three such factors long-studied by scholars of political violence: perceived victimhood, reinforcing racial and religious identities, and support for conspiratorial information sources. Each can be exacerbated by elite cues, thus translating individual beliefs in Christian nationalism into support for political violence. We test this approach with original survey data collected in the wake of the Capitol attacks. We find that all the identified factors are positively related to each other and support for the Capitol riot; moreover, the relationship between Christian nationalism and support for political violence is sharply conditioned by white identity, perceived victimhood, and support for the QAnon movement. These results suggest that religion’s role in contemporary right-wing violence is embedded with non-religious factors that deserve further scholarly attention in making sense of support for political violence.

From Discussion and Implications

While this is not a piece of policy analysis, our findings do come with implications for governmental efforts to confront domestic extremism, which have received significant attention in the shadow of January 6. First and foremost, these efforts could repeat mistakes of earlier generations of policy designed to counter violent extremism, which tended to focus on religious ideology or beliefs in isolation. The results we present here suggest that efforts to promote “moderate” Christianity are likely to run into similar obstacles to twenty years of limited results from efforts to promote “moderate” Islam or mobilize government resources to win a “war of ideas” within Islam. Instead, religion’s impact on support for extremist violence is likely to be “interactive” (Mandaville & Nozell, 2017, 1). In this case, for example, the strong conditioning effect of support for the QAnon movement suggests the urgent need for increased data collection on the explicit or implicit ways in which conspiratorial disinformation spreads through religious congregations and institutions. Moreover, as victimhood and white identity can be cued and strategically employed by political elites (Armaly and Enders Forthcoming; Jardina 2019), our results suggest attention to the types of messages from political and religious leaders intended to exacerbate the factors that condition the impact of Christian nationalism.

Our findings, drawn from one sample and an observational research design, also provide ample opportunities for further research. First, we theorize, but do not directly observe or test, that the factors enhancing Christian nationalism’s effect on support for violence are tied to changing top-down mechanisms such as the supply of anti-establishment elite cues. Research has documented the ability of elite cues to stoke victimhood, white identity, and conspiracy beliefs, and Christian nationalism itself could well be manipulable in a similar way. Various experimental approaches could probe the mass-level effects of elite communication strategies. Building on recent experimental research (Buckley, 2020; Margolis, 2018), these designs could test which types of individuals are most responsive to Christian nationalist cues, and further investigate the reinforcing nature of cues that blend religious, racial, and even conspiratorial content. A significant body of recent research on clergy influence (Dujpe and Gilbert 2009), including attitudes related to tolerance (Djupe 2015), suggests that clergy influence may be substantial, but also contingent.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Despite Decades of Hacking Attacks, Companies Leave Vast Amounts of Sensitive Data Unprotected

Cezary Podkul
Originally published 25 JAN 22

Here is an excerpt:

Americans rarely get a glimpse of hackers, much less what their work entails. They might be surprised to learn how little experience is needed. People often think hackers are highly sophisticated, Troy Hunt, creator of data breach tracking website Have I Been Pwned, told ProPublica. But in reality, there’s so much unsecured data online that most of the 11.7 billion email addresses and usernames in Hunt’s collection come from young adults who watch a few instructional videos and figure out how to grab them for malicious purposes. “It’s coming from kids with internet access and the ability to run a Google search and watch YouTube videos,” Hunt said in a 2019 talk about how hackers gain access to data.

Hiếu was once one of those teenagers. He grew up in a Vietnamese fishing town where his parents ran an electronics store. His dad got him a computer at age 12 and, like many adolescents, Hiếu was hooked.

His online pursuits quickly took a wrong turn. First, he started stealing dial-up account logins so he could surf the web for free. Then he learned how to deface websites and abscond with data left exposed on them. In high school, he joined forces with a friend who helped him pilfer credit card data from online stores and make up to $500 a day reselling it.

Eventually fellow hackers told him the real money was in aggregating and reselling Americans’ identities. Unlike credit cards, which banks can cancel instantly, stolen identities can be reused for various fraudulent purposes.

Beginning around 2010, Hiếu went looking for ways to get detailed profiles of Americans. It didn’t take long to find a source: MicroBilt, a Georgia-based consumer credit reporting firm, had a vulnerability on its website that allowed Hiếu to identify and take over user accounts. Hiếu said he used the credentials to start querying MicroBuilt’s database. He sold access to the search results on his online data store, called Superget.info.

MicroBilt spotted the vulnerability and kicked Hiếu out, setting off a monthslong standoff during which, Hiếu said, he exploited several vulnerabilities in the company’s systems to keep his store going. MicroBilt did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Tired of the back and forth, Hiếu went looking for another source. He found his way into a company called Court Ventures, which resold aggregated personally identifiable information on Americans. Hiếu used forged documents to pretend he was a private investigator from Singapore with a legitimate use for the data. He called himself Jason Low and provided a fake Yahoo email address. Soon, he was in.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Social threat indirectly increases moral condemnation via thwarting fundamental social needs

Henderson, R.K., Schnall, S. 
Sci Rep 11, 21709 (2021).


Individuals who experience threats to their social needs may attempt to avert further harm by condemning wrongdoers more severely. Three pre-registered studies tested whether threatened social esteem is associated with increased moral condemnation. In Study 1 (N = 381) participants played a game in which they were socially included or excluded and then evaluated the actions of moral wrongdoers. We observed an indirect effect: Exclusion increased social needs-threat, which in turn increased moral condemnation. Study 2 (N = 428) was a direct replication, and also showed this indirect effect. Both studies demonstrated the effect across five moral foundations, and was most pronounced for harm violations. Study 3 (N = 102) examined dispositional concerns about social needs threat, namely social anxiety, and showed a positive correlation between this trait and moral judgments. Overall, results suggest threatened social standing is linked to moral condemnation, presumably because moral wrongdoers pose a further threat when one’s ability to cope is already compromised.

From the General Discussion

These findings indicating that social threat is associated with harsher moral judgments suggest that various threats to survival can influence assessments of moral wrongdoing. Indeed, it has been proposed that the reason social exclusion reliably results in negative emotions is because social disconnectedness has been detrimental throughout human societies. As we found in Studies 1 and 2 and consistent with prior research even brief exclusion via a simulated computer game can thwart fundamental social needs. Taken together, these experimental and correlational findings suggest that an elevated sense of danger appears to fortify moral judgment, because when safety is compromised, wrongdoers represent yet another source of potential danger. As a consequence, vulnerable individuals may be motivated to condemn moral violations more harshly. Interestingly, the null finding for loneliness suggests that amplified moral condemnation is not associated with having no social connections in the first place, but rather, with the existence or prospect of social threat. Relatedly, prior research has shown that greater cortisol release is associated with social anxiety but not with loneliness indicating that the body’s stress response does not react to loneliness in the same way as it does to social threat.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The effect of gender and parenting daughters on judgments of morally controversial companies

Niszczota P, Białek M (2021)
PLoS ONE 16(12): e0260503.


Earlier findings suggest that men with daughters make judgments and decisions somewhat in line with those made by women. In this paper, we attempt to extend those findings, by testing how gender and parenting daughters affect judgments of the appropriateness of investing in and working for morally controversial companies (“sin stocks”). To do so, in Study 1 (N = 634) we investigate whether women judge the prospect of investing in sin stocks more harshly than men do, and test the hypothesis that men with daughters judge such investments less favorably than other men. In Study 2 (N = 782), we investigate the willingness to work in morally controversial companies at a significant wage premium. Results show that—for men—parenting daughters yields harsher evaluations of sin stocks, but no evidence that it lowers the propensity to work in such companies. This contrasts to the effect of gender: women reliably judge both investment and employment in morally controversial companies more harshly than men do. We suggest that an aversion towards morally controversial companies might be a partial determinant of the gender gap in wages.

From the Discussion section

There are several insights from our work. Firstly, we investigate laypeople instead of people of high social status, such as CEOs, members of congress, or judges. This would be consequential if parental investment in sons and daughters might depend on the social status of the parent. Studying laypeople makes our findings more relevant to the general population, and to more common decisions (e.g., concerning what mutual funds to invest in). Secondly, our models are aimed at directly testing whether the effect of parenting daughters is different across men and women. This would be expected from the female socialization hypothesis: parenting daughters might make the preferences of men more similar to those exhibited by women, as it would help them adopt alternative perspectives on issues in which the opinions of men and women might differ. Yet, they would not cause a shift in the preferences of women, as they have the same gender as their daughters. Our findings show that parenting daughters leads to harsher evaluations of morally controversial investments, but only in men. In fact, women parenting a daughter judge morally controversial investments more favorably than women without daughters, a somewhat unexpected finding.

Our results showed a boundary condition of the daughter effect. In our case, a full conceptual replication of the findings of Cronqvist and Yu would translate into a more negative view of morally controversial companies as investment propositions, and a lower willingness to be employed in such companies (at a significant premium). We observed the daughter effect in the former, but not in the latter decision. This is noteworthy, considering that the gender effect was of similar strength in Study 1 (that concerned investment) and Study 2 (that concerned employment). In short, gender differences are robust to the factors that affect the daughter effect, but these are yet to be discovered. We need to point out that we are not the first to show no clear support for the daughter effect; however, see for a methodological comment on that particular finding). Moreover, in one study, Dahl and colleagues showed that the birth of a child (even daughters, if the first-born child was not female) makes male CEOs less generous to employees.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Beyond Populism: The Psychology of Status-Seeking and Extreme Political Discontent

Petersen, M., Osmundsen, M., & Bor, A. 
(2020, July 8).


Modern democracies are currently experiencing destabilizing events including the emergence of demagogic leaders, the onset of street riots, circulation of misinformation and extremely hostile political engagements on social media. Some of the forms of discontent are commonly argued to be related to populism. In this chapter, however, we argue that the evolved psychology of status-seeking lies at the core of this syndrome of extreme political discontent. Thus, social status constitutes one of the key adaptive resources for any human, as it induces deference from others in conflicts of interest. Prior research has identified two routes to status: Privilege acquired through service and dominance acquired through coercion. We argue that extreme political discontent involves behaviors aimed at dominance through engagement in either individual aggression or in mobilization processes that facilitate coalitional aggression. Consistent with this, we empirically demonstrate that measures of status-seeking via dominance correlate with indices of a large number of extreme forms of political discontent and do so more strongly than a measure of populism. Finally, we argue that the reason why dominance strategies become activated in the context of modern democratic politics is that increased inequality activates heightened needs for status and, under such conditions, dominance for some groups constitutes a more attainable route to status than prestige.

Towards depolarized societies 

Understanding the psychological and structural roots of extreme discontent is key if we are to move  towards more peaceful societies.  An exclusive focus on populism might lead to the expectation that the  roots of discontent are value-based. For example, the rise of right-wing populism may suggest that  frustrations are rooted in a decreasing respect for authorities and traditional forms of life. If that was indeed the case, a depolarized society might be reached only if non-populists were willing to compromise on important political values and to a larger extent embrace tradition and authority.

In contrast, the present arguments and results suggest that the true roots of the most extreme forms of discontent are less based on a conflict of abstract political values and more on a lack of social status and recognition. If so, the path towards depolarization lies in more inclusion and more equality, for example, based on an affirmation of the classical liberal doctrine of the importance of  open,  non-dominant  exchange  of  arguments  (Popper,  1945).  Unfortunately,  this  is  not something  that can be fixed quickly, as would be  the case  if discontent was rooted  in transient factors such as the behavior of social media algorithms.  Rather, depolarization requires difficult structural changes that alleviates the onset of dominance motivations.

Monday, November 29, 2021

People use mental shortcuts to make difficult decisions – even highly trained doctors delivering babies

Manasvini Singh
The Conversation
Originally published 14 OCT 21

Here is an excerpt:

Useful time-saver or dangerous bias?

A bias arising from a heuristic implies a deviation from an “optimal” decision. However, identifying the optimal decision in real life is difficult because you usually don’t know what could have been: the counterfactual. This is especially relevant in medicine.

Take the win-stay/lose-shift strategy, for example. There are other studies that show that after “bad” events, physicians switch strategies. Missing an important diagnosis makes physicians test more on subsequent patients. Experiencing complications with a drug makes the physician less likely to prescribe it again.

But from a learning perspective, it’s difficult to say that ordering a test after missing a diagnosis is a flawed heuristic. Ordering a test always increases the chance that the physician catches an important diagnosis. So it’s a useful heuristic in some instances – say, for example, the physician had been underordering tests before, or the patient or insurer prefers shelling out the extra money for the chance to detect a cancer early.

In my study, though, switching delivery modes after complications offers no documented guarantees of avoiding future complications. And there is the added consideration of the short- and long-term health consequences of delivery-mode choice for mother and baby. Further, people are generally less tolerant of having inappropriate medical procedures performed on them than they are of being the recipients of unnecessary tests.

Tweaking the heuristic

Can physicians’ reliance on heuristics be lessened? Possibly.

Decision support systems that assist physicians with important clinical decisions are gathering momentum in medicine, and could help doctors course-correct after emotional events such as delivery complications.

For example, such algorithms can be built into electronic health records and perform a variety of tasks: flag physician decisions that appear nonstandard, identify patients who could benefit from a particular decision, summarize clinical information in ways that make it easier for physicians to digest and so on. As long as physicians retain at least some autonomy, decision support systems can do just that – support doctors in making clinical decisions.

Nudges that unobtrusively encourage physicians to make certain decisions can be accomplished by tinkering with the way options are presented – what’s called “choice architecture.” They already work for other clinical decisions.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Character-Infused Ethical Decision Making

Nguyen, B., Crossan, M. 
J Bus Ethics (2021). 


Despite a growing body of research by management scholars to understand and explain failures in ethical decision making (EDM), misconduct prevails. Scholars have identified character, founded in virtue ethics, as an important perspective that can help to address the gap in organizational misconduct. While character has been offered as a valid perspective in EDM, current theorizing on how it applies to EDM has not been well developed. We thus integrate character, founded in virtue ethics, into Rest’s (1986) EDM model to reveal how shifting attention to the nature of the moral agent provides critical insights into decision making more broadly and EDM specifically. Virtue ethics provides a perspective on EDM that acknowledges and anticipates uncertainties, considers its contextual constraints, and contemplates the development of the moral agent. We thus answer the call by many scholars to integrate character in EDM in order to advance the understanding of the field and suggest propositions for how to move forward. We conclude with implications of a character-infused approach to EDM for future research.

From the Conclusion

As described at the outset, misconduct occurs in every facet of organizational life from the individual to the collective, at a localized and global scale, and covers inappropriate action in the private (2008 financial crisis), public/government (Panama Papers), academic institutions (Varsity Blues Scandal), and even touches not-for-profit organizations (IOC doping scandal). Character highlights the fact that misconduct often arises from “too much of a good thing” (Antonakis et al., 2017); when one or a set of character dimensions are privileged over the others, leading to deficiencies in those undervalued dimensions. For example, those who contributed to the financial crisis and the Panama Paper scandal were likely high on drive but deficient in justice and humanity. Thus, future research could insert character into the equation to better understand the nature of misconduct.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What Matters for Moral Status: Behavioural or Cognitive Equivalence?

John Danaher
Cambridge Quarterly Review of Healthcare Ethics
2021 Jul;30(3):472-478.


Henry Shevlin’s paper—“How could we know when a robot was a moral patient?” – argues that we should recognize robots and artificial intelligence (AI) as psychological moral patients if they are cognitively equivalent to other beings that we already recognize as psychological moral patients (i.e., humans and, at least some, animals). In defending this cognitive equivalence strategy, Shevlin draws inspiration from the “behavioral equivalence” strategy that I have defended in previous work but argues that it is flawed in crucial respects. Unfortunately—and I guess this is hardly surprising—I cannot bring myself to agree that the cognitive equivalence strategy is the superior one. In this article, I try to explain why in three steps. First, I clarify the nature of the question that I take both myself and Shevlin to be answering. Second, I clear up some potential confusions about the behavioral equivalence strategy, addressing some other recent criticisms of it. Third, I will explain why I still favor the behavioral equivalence strategy over the cognitive equivalence one.


The second problem is more fundamental and may get to the heart of the disagreement between myself and Shevlin. The problem is that Shevlin seems to think that behavioural evidence and cognitive evidence are separable. I do not think that they are. After all, cognitive architectures do not speak for themselves. They speak through behaviour. The human cognitive architecture, for example, is not that differentiated at a biological level, particularly at the cortical level. You would be hard pressed to work out the cognitive function of different brain regions just by staring at MRI scans and microscopic slices of neural tissue. You need behavioural evidence to tell you what the cognitive architecture does.  This is what has happened repeatedly in the history of neuro- and cognitive science. So, for example, we find that people with damage to particular regions of the brain exhibit some odd behaviours (lack of long term memory formation; irritability and impulsiveness; language deficits; and so on). We then use this behavioural evidence to build up a functional map of the cognitive architecture. If the map is detailed enough, someone might be able to infer certain psychological or mental states from patterns of activity in the cognitive architecture, but this is only because we first used behaviour to build up the functional map.