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 Moral Foundations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moral Foundations. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Implications of Diverse Human Moral Foundations for Assessing the Ethicality of Artificial Intelligence

Telkamp, J.B., Anderson, M.H. 
J Bus Ethics 178, 961–976 (2022).


Organizations are making massive investments in artificial intelligence (AI), and recent demonstrations and achievements highlight the immense potential for AI to improve organizational and human welfare. Yet realizing the potential of AI necessitates a better understanding of the various ethical issues involved with deciding to use AI, training and maintaining it, and allowing it to make decisions that have moral consequences. People want organizations using AI and the AI systems themselves to behave ethically, but ethical behavior means different things to different people, and many ethical dilemmas require trade-offs such that no course of action is universally considered ethical. How should organizations using AI—and the AI itself—process ethical dilemmas where humans disagree on the morally right course of action? Though a variety of ethical AI frameworks have been suggested, these approaches do not adequately address how people make ethical evaluations of AI systems or how to incorporate the fundamental disagreements people have regarding what is and is not ethical behavior. Drawing on moral foundations theory, we theorize that a person will perceive an organization’s use of AI, its data procedures, and the resulting AI decisions as ethical to the extent that those decisions resonate with the person’s moral foundations. Since people hold diverse moral foundations, this highlights the crucial need to consider individual moral differences at multiple levels of AI. We discuss several unresolved issues and suggest potential approaches (such as moral reframing) for thinking about conflicts in moral judgments concerning AI.

The article is paywalled, link is above.

Here are some additional points:
  • The article raises important questions about the ethicality of AI systems. It is clear that there is no single, monolithic standard of morality that can be applied to AI systems. Instead, we need to consider a plurality of moral foundations when evaluating the ethicality of AI systems.
  • The article also highlights the challenges of assessing the ethicality of AI systems. It is difficult to measure the impact of AI systems on human well-being, and there is no single, objective way to determine whether an AI system is ethical. However, the article suggests that a pluralistic approach to ethical evaluation, which takes into account a variety of moral perspectives, is the best way to assess the ethicality of AI systems.
  • The article concludes by calling for more research on the implications of diverse human moral foundations for the ethicality of AI. This is an important area of research, and I hope that more research is conducted in this area in the future.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Mitigating welfare-related prejudice and partisanship among U.S. conservatives with moral reframing of a universal basic income policy

Thomas, C. C., Walton, G. M., et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 105, March 2023, 104424


Inequality and deep poverty have risen sharply in the US since the 1990s. Simultaneously, cash-based welfare policies have frayed, support for public assistance has fallen on the political right, and prejudice against recipients of welfare has remained high. Yet, in recent years Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gained traction, a policy proposing to give all citizens cash sufficient to meet basic needs with no strings attached. We hypothesized that UBI can mitigate the partisanship and prejudice that define the existing welfare paradigm in the US but that this potential depends critically on the narratives attached to it. Indeed, across three online experiments with US adults (total N = 1888), we found that communicating the novel policy features of UBI alone were not sufficient to achieve bipartisan support for UBI or overcome negative stereotyping of its recipients. However, when UBI was described as advancing the more conservative value of financial freedom, conservatives perceived the policy to be more aligned with their values and were less opposed to the policy (meta-analytic effect on policy support: d = 0.36 [95% CI: 0.27 to 0.46]). Extending the literatures on moral reframing and cultural match, we further find that this values-aligned policy narrative mitigated prejudice among conservatives, reducing negative welfare-related stereotyping of policy recipients (meta-analytic effect d = −0.27 [95% CI: −0.38 to −0.16]), while increasing affiliation with them. Together, these findings point to moral reframing as a promising means by which institutional narratives can be used to bridge partisan divides and reduce prejudice.


• Policies like Universal Basic Income (UBI) propose to mitigate poverty and inequality by giving all citizens cash

• A UBI policy narrative based in freedom most increased policy support and reduced prejudice among conservatives

• This narrative also achieved the highest perceived moral fit, or alignment with one’s values, among conservatives

• Moral reframing of policy communications may be an effective institutional lever for mitigating partisanship and prejudice


General discussion

Three experiments revealed that a values-based narrative of UBI, one grounded in the conservative value of economic freedom, can advance bipartisanship in support for UBI and simultaneously mitigate welfare-related prejudice among U.S. conservatives. While policy reforms often focus on changes to objective policy features, these studies suggest that the narratives attached to such features will meaningfully influence public attitudes towards both the policy and its recipients. In other words, the potential of policies like UBI to advance goals such as inequality reduction and prejudice mitigation may be limited if they fail to attend to the narratives that accompany them.

Here, we demonstrate the potential for policy narratives that elevate the moral foundations of those most opposed to the policy, U.S. conservatives in this case. Why might this narrative approach succeed? At a higher-order level, our findings suggests that inclusion begets inclusion: when conservatives felt that the policy recognized and reflected their own values, they were more likely to support the policy and express inclusive attitudes toward its recipients.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Moral foundations partially explain the association of the Dark Triad traits with homophobia and transphobia

Kay, C. S., & Dimakis, S. M. (2022, June 24). 


People with antagonistic personality traits are reportedly more racist, sexist, and xenophobic than their non-antagonistic counterparts. In the present studies (N1 = 718; N2 = 267), we examined whether people with antagonistic personality traits are also more likely to hold homophobic and transphobic attitudes, and, if they are, whether this can be explained by their moral intuitions. We found that people high in Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy are more likely to endorse homophobic and transphobic views. The associations of Machiavellianism and psychopathy with homophobia and transphobia were primarily explained by low endorsement of individualizing moral foundations (i.e., care and fairness), while the association of narcissism with these beliefs was primarily explained by high endorsement of the binding moral foundations (i.e., loyalty, authority, and sanctity). These findings provide insight into the types of people who harbour homophobic and transphobic attitudes and how differences in moral dispositions contribute to their LGBTQ+ prejudice.

General discussion

We conducted two studies to test whether those with antagonistic personality traits (e.g., Machiavellianism, grandiose narcissism, and psychopathy) are more likely to express homonegative and transphobic views, and, if so, whether this is because of their moral intuitions.Study 1 used a convenience sample of 718undergraduate students drawn from a university Human Subjects Pool. It was exploratory, in the sense that we specified no formal hypotheses. That said, we suspected that those with antagonistic personality traits would be more likely to hold homonegative and transphobic attitudes and that they may do so because they dismiss individualizing morals concerns (e.g., do no harm; treat others fairly). At the same time, we suspected that those with antagonistic personality traits would also deemphasize the binding moral foundations (e.g., be loyal to your ingroup; respect authority; avoid contaminants, even those that are metaphysical),weakening any observed associations between the antagonistic personality traits and LGBTQ+ prejudice. The purpose of Study 2 was to examine whether the findings identified in Study 1 would generalize beyond a sample of undergraduate students.  Since we had no reason to suspect the results would differ between Study 1 and Study 2, our preregistered hypotheses for Study 2 were that we would observe the same pattern of results identified in Study 1.

There was clear evidence across both studies that those high in the three antagonistic personality traits were more likely to endorse statements that were reflective of traditional homonegativity, modern homonegativity, general genderism/transphobia, and gender-bashing. All of these associations were moderate-to-large in magnitude (Funder & Ozer, 2019), save for the association between narcissism and traditional homonegativity in Study 1. These results indicate that, on top of harbouring racist(Jones, 2013), xenophobic (Hodson et al., 2009), and sexist (Gluck et al., 2020) attitudes, those high in antagonistic personality traits also harbour homonegative and transphobic attitudes.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Testing heritability of moral foundations: Common pathway models support strong heritability for the five moral foundations

Zakharin, M., & Bates, T. C. (2022). 
European Journal of Personality.


Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) predicts that moral behaviour reflects at least five foundational traits, each hypothesised to be heritable. Here, we report two independent twin studies (total n = 2020), using multivariate multi-group common pathway models to test the following three predictions from the MFT: (1) The moral foundations will show significant heritability; (2) The moral foundations will each be genetically distinct and (3) The clustering of moral concerns around individualising and binding domains will show significant heritability. Supporting predictions 1 and 3, Study 1 showed evidence for significant heritability of two broad moral factors corresponding to individualising and binding domains. In Study 2, we added the second dataset, testing replication of the Study 1 model in a joint approach. This further corroborated evidence for heritable influence, showed strong influences on the individualising and binding domains (h2 = 49% and 66%, respectively) and, partially supporting prediction 2, showed foundation-specific, heritable influences on Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity and Purity/Sanctity foundations. A general morality factor was required, also showing substantial genetic effects (40%). These findings indicate that moral foundations have significant genetic bases. These influenced the individual foundations themselves as well as a general concern for the individual, for the group, and overall moral concern.

From the General Discussion

Two of the highly heritable common factors in our model clearly correspond to the binding (Ingroup/ Loyalty, Authority/Respect and Sanctity/Purity) and individualising (Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity) moral domains theorised by Graham et al. (2011), thereby supporting their model. At the same time, three out of five specific genetic effects were non-significant, which was unexpected. This may suggest that differences between individual foundations, for example, distinctions between Authority and Ingroup – are purely learned in origin. At this point, however, an equally plausible hypothesis is that we simply lacked the power to distinguish all the effects in the moral foundations. The sample size, but more particularly the abbreviated measures used in both datasets with reduced ability to detect facet-specific variance mean that this possibility cannot be ruled out. Future studies investigating these issues using larger, extended and even longitudinal twin designs and a wide range of measures would be valuable. In particular, it will be of value to explore whether the five distinct foundations reflect, at a genetic level, different combinations of these two major domains. Another area of interest for future research would be an analysis of distinctions between individualising measures such as Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity and motivations such as compassion in other evolutionary models (e.g. Lin & Bates, 2021; Sznycer et al., 2017).

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

How pills undermine skills: Moralization of cognitive enhancement and causal selection

E. Mihailov, B. R. López, F. Cova & I. R. Hannikainen
Consciousness and Cognition
Volume 91, May 2021, 103120


Despite the promise to boost human potential and wellbeing, enhancement drugs face recurring ethical scrutiny. The present studies examined attitudes toward cognitive enhancement in order to learn more about these ethical concerns, who has them, and the circumstances in which they arise. Fairness-based concerns underlay opposition to competitive use—even though enhancement drugs were described as legal, accessible and affordable. Moral values also influenced how subsequent rewards were causally explained: Opposition to competitive use reduced the causal contribution of the enhanced winner’s skill, particularly among fairness-minded individuals. In a follow-up study, we asked: Would the normalization of enhancement practices alleviate concerns about their unfairness? Indeed, proliferation of competitive cognitive enhancement eradicated fairness-based concerns, and boosted the perceived causal role of the winner’s skill. In contrast, purity-based concerns emerged in both recreational and competitive contexts, and were not assuaged by normalization.


• Views on cognitive enhancement reflect both purity and fairness concerns.

• Fairness, but not purity, concerns are surmounted by normalizing use.

• Moral opposition to pills undermines user’s perceived skills.

From the Discussion

In line with a growing literature on causal selection (Alicke, 1992; Icard et al., 2017; Kominsky et al. 2015), judgments of the enhanced user’s skill aligned with participants’ moral attitudes. Participants who held permissive attitudes were more likely to causally attribute success to agents’ skill and effort, while participants who held restrictive attitudes were more likely to view the pill as causally responsible. This association resulted in stronger denial of competitive users’ talent and ability, particularly among fairness-minded individuals. 

The moral foundation of purity, comprising norms related to spiritual sanctity and bodily propriety, and which appeals predominantly to political conservatives (Graham et al., 2009), also predicted attitudes toward enhancement. Purity-minded individuals were more likely to condemn enhancement users, regardless of whether cognitive enhancement was normal or rare. This categorical opposition may elucidate the origin of conservative bioethicists’ (e.g., Kass, 2003) attitudes toward human enhancement: i.e., in self-directed norms regulating the proper care of one’s own body (see also Koverola et al., 2021). Finally, whereas explicit reasoning about interpersonal concerns and the unjust treatment of others accompanied fairness-based opposition, our qualitative analyses data did not reveal a cogent, purity-based rationale—which could be interpreted as evidence that purity-based opposition is not guided by moral reasoning to the same degree (Mihailov, 2016). 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Binding Moral Values Gain Importance in the Presence of Close Others

Yudkin, D. A., et al. (2019, April 12). 


A key function of morality is to regulate social behavior. Research suggests moral values may be divided into two types: binding values, which govern behavior in groups, and individualizing values, which promote personal rights and freedoms. Because people tend to mentally activate concepts in situations in which they may prove useful, the importance they afford moral values may vary according to whom they are with in the moment. In particular, because binding values help regulate communal behavior, people may afford these values more importance when in the presence of close (versus distant) others. Five studies test and support this hypothesis. First, we use a custom smartphone application to repeatedly record participants’ (n = 1,166) current social context and the importance they afforded moral values. Results show people rate moral values as more important when in the presence of close others, and this effect is stronger for binding than individualizing values—an effect that replicates in a large preregistered online sample (n = 2,016). A lab study (n = 390) and two preregistered online experiments (n = 580 and n = 752) provides convergent evidence that people afford binding, but not individualizing, values more importance when in the real or imagined presence of close others. Our results suggest people selectively activate different moral values according to the demands of the situation, and show how the mere presence of others can affect moral thinking.


Centuries of thought in moral philosophy suggest that the purpose of moral values is to regulate social behavior. However, the psychology underlying this process remains underspecified. Here we show that the mere presence of close others increases the importance people afford binding moral values. By contrast, individualizing values are not reliably associated with relational context. In other words, people appear to selectively activate those moral values most relevant to their current social situation. This “moral activation” may play a functional role by helping people to abide by the relevant moral values in a given relational context and monitor adherence to those values in others. 

Our results are consistent with the view that different values play different functional roles in social life. Past research contrasts the values that encourage cohesion in groups and relationships with those that emphasize individual rights and freedoms10.Because violations to individualizing values may be considered wrong regardless of where and when they occur, the importance people ascribe to them may be unaffected by who they are with. By contrast, because binding values concern the moral duties conferred by specific social relationships, they may be particularly subject to social influence. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Moral psychology of sex robots: An experimental study

M. Koverola, et al.
Journal of Brehavioral Robots
Volume 11: Issue 1


The idea of sex with robots seems to fascinate the general public, raising both enthusiasm and revulsion. We ran two experimental studies (Ns = 172 and 260) where we compared people’s reactions to variants of stories about a person visiting a bordello. Our results show that paying for the services of a sex robot is condemned less harshly than paying for the services of a human sex worker, especially if the payer is married. We have for the first time experimentally confirmed that people are somewhat unsure about whether using a sex robot while in a committed monogamous relationship should be considered as infidelity. We also shed light on the psychological factors influencing attitudes toward sex robots, including disgust sensitivity and interest in science fiction. Our results indicate that sex with a robot is indeed genuinely considered as sex, and a sex robot is genuinely seen as a robot; thus, we show that standard research methods on sexuality and robotics are also applicable in research on sex robotics.



Our results successfully show that people condemn a married person less harshly if they pay for a robot sex worker than for a human sex worker. This likely reflects the fact that many people do not consider sex with a robot as infidelity or consider it as “cheating, but less so than with a human person”. These results therefore function as a stepping-stone into new avenues of interesting research that might be appealing to evolutionary and moral psychologists alike. Most likely, sociologists and market researchers will also be interested in increasing our understanding regarding the complex relations between humans and members of new ontological categories (robots, artificial intelligences (AIs), etc.). Future research will offer new possibilities to understand both human sexual and moral cognition by focusing on how humans relate to sexual relationships with androids beyond mere fantasies produced by science fiction like Westworld or Blade Runner. As sex robots in the near future enter mass production, public opinion will presumably stabilize regarding moral attitudes toward sex with robots.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Moral “foundations” as the product of motivated social cognition: Empathy and other psychological underpinnings of ideological divergence in “individualizing” and “binding” concerns

Strupp-Levitsky M, et al.
PLoS ONE 15(11): e0241144. 


According to moral foundations theory, there are five distinct sources of moral intuition on which political liberals and conservatives differ. The present research program seeks to contextualize this taxonomy within the broader research literature on political ideology as motivated social cognition, including the observation that conservative judgments often serve system-justifying functions. In two studies, a combination of regression and path modeling techniques were used to explore the motivational underpinnings of ideological differences in moral intuitions. Consistent with our integrative model, the “binding” foundations (in-group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity) were associated with epistemic and existential needs to reduce uncertainty and threat and system justification tendencies, whereas the so-called “individualizing” foundations (fairness and avoidance of harm) were generally unrelated to epistemic and existential motives and were instead linked to empathic motivation. Taken as a whole, these results are consistent with the position taken by Hatemi, Crabtree, and Smith that moral “foundations” are themselves the product of motivated social cognition.

Concluding remarks

Taken in conjunction, the results presented here lead to several conclusions that should be of relevance to social scientists who study morality, social justice, and political ideology. First, we observe that so-called “binding” moral concerns pertaining to ingroup loyalty, authority, and purity are psychologically linked to epistemic and, to a lesser extent, existential motives to reduce uncertainty and threat. Second, so-called “individualizing” concerns for fairness and avoidance of harm are not linked to these same motives. Rather, they seem to be driven largely by empathic sensitivity. Third, it would appear that theories of moral foundations and motivated social cognition are in some sense compatible, as suggested by Van Leeuween and Park, rather than incompatible, as suggested by Haidt and Graham and Haidt. That is, the motivational basis of conservative preferences for “binding” intuitions seems to be no different than the motivational basis for many other conservative preferences, including system justification and the epistemic and existential motives that are presumed to underlie system justification.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Religious moral righteousness over care: a review and a meta-analysis

Current Opinion in Psychology
Volume 40, August 2021, Pages 79-85


Does religion enhance an ‘extended’ morality? We review research on religiousness and Schwartz’s values, Haidt’s moral foundations (through a meta-analysis of 45 studies), and deontology versus consequentialism (a review of 27 studies). Instead of equally encompassing prosocial (care for others) and other values (duties to the self, the community, and the sacred), religiosity implies a restrictive morality: endorsement of values denoting social order (conservation, loyalty, and authority), self-control (low autonomy and self-expansion), and purity more strongly than care; and, furthermore, a deontological, non-consequentialist, righteous orientation, that could result in harm to (significant) others. Religious moral righteousness is highest in fundamentalism and weakens in secular countries. Only spirituality reflects an extended morality (care, fairness, and the binding foundations). Evolutionarily, religious morality seems to be more coalitional and ‘hygienic’ than caring.


• We meta-analyzed 45 studies on religion and Haidt’s five moral foundations.

• Religiosity implies high purity, authority, and loyalty; care is involved only weakly.

• Only spirituality reflects extended morality: care, fairness, and the binding values.

• Results parallel findings on religion and Schwartz’s values across the world.

• Religious morality is primarily deontological, non-consequentialist, and righteous.


On the basis of the findings of the various research areas examined in this article, we think it is reasonable to infer that the role of religious (ingroup) prosociality in forming and consolidating large coalitions involving reciprocal interpersonal helping may have been overestimated in the contemporary evolutionary psychology of religion.  This role may not reflect the very center of religious morality. Rather, the results of the present review suggest that the evolutionary perspectives of religion focusing on the importance of hygienic and righteous/coalitional morality (avoidance of pathogens, loyalty, group conformity, as well as preservation of personal and social order) may be more central in explaining, from a moral perspective, religions’ origin and maintenance.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Fallen Soldier Insults Give Trump a Lot to Fear

Cass Sunstein
Originally published 6 Sept 20

Here is an excerpt:

Building on Haidt’s work, Harvard economist Benjamin Enke has studied the rhetoric of numerous recent presidential candidates, and found that one has done better than all others in emphasizing loyalty, authority and sanctity: Trump. On the same scales, Hillary Clinton was especially bad. (Barack Obama was far better.) Enke also found that Trump’s emphasis on these values mattered to many voters, and attracted them to his side.

This framework helps sort out what many people consider to be a puzzle: Trump avoided military service, has been married three times, and has not exactly been a paragon of virtue in his personal life. Yet many people focused on patriotism, religious faith and traditional moral values have strongly supported him. A key reason is that however he has lived his life, he speaks their language — and indeed does so at least as well as, and probably better than, any presidential candidate they have heard before.

That’s why his reported expressions of contempt and disrespect for American soldiers threaten to be uniquely damaging — far more so than other outrageous comments he has made. When he said that Mexico is sending rapists to the U.S., made fun of the looks of prominent women, mocked disabled people, or said that protesters should be roughed up, people might have nodded or cringed, or laughed or been appalled.

As a matter of pure politics, though, saying that soldiers are “losers” or “suckers” is much worse for Trump because it attacks the foundation of his appeal: However he lives his life, at least he expresses deep love for this country and reverence for those who fight for it, and at least he speaks out for traditional moral values.

There are strong lessons here for both Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. Through both word and deed, the president needs to do whatever he can to make it clear that he respects and supports American soldiers.

The info is here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Measuring Two Distinct Psychological Threats of COVID-19 and their Unique Impacts on Wellbeing and Adherence to Public Health Behaviors

Kachanoff, F., Bigman, Y., Kapsaskis, K., &
Gray, K.  (2020, April 2).


COVID-19 threatens lives, livelihoods, and civic institutions. Although public health initiatives (i.e., social distancing) help manage its impact, these initiatives can further sever our connections to people and institutions that affirm our identities. Three studies (N=1,195) validated a brief 10-item COVID-19 threat scale that assesses 1) realistic threats to physical or financial safety, and 2) symbolic threats to one’s sociocultural identity. Studies reveal that both realistic and symbolic threat predict higher anxiety and lower wellbeing, and demonstrate convergent validity with other measures of threat sensitivity. Importantly, the two kinds of threat diverge in their relationship to public health behaviors (e.g., social distancing): Realistic threat predicted greater self-reported compliance, whereas symbolic threat predicted less self-reported compliance to these social-disconnection initiatives. Symbolic threat also predicted using creative ways to affirm identity even in isolation. Our findings highlight how social psychological theory can be leveraged to understand and predict people’s behavior in pandemics.

From the General Discussion:

Symbolic and realistic threats also had significant yet different consequences for self-reported adherence to and support of public health initiatives essential to stopping the spread of the virus (i.e., social distancing, hand washing). People who perceived high levels of realistic threat to their (and their group’s) physical and financial security reported greater adherence and support for such practices. In direct contrast, people who perceived more symbolic threat to what it means to be an American, reported less support for and adherence to public health guidelines. However, if people do engage in social distancing, symbolic threat is positively associated with finding creative ways to enact and express their social (e.g., national) identity even in isolation.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Body Maps of Moral Concerns

Atari, M., Davani, A. M., & Dehghani, M.
(2018, December 4).


The somatosensory reaction to different social circumstances has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here, we present a pre-registered experiment in which we examine the topographical maps associated with violations of different moral concerns. Specifically, participants (N = 596) were randomly assigned to scenarios of moral violations, and then drew their subjective somatosensory experience on two 48,954-pixel silhouettes. We demonstrate that bodily representations of different moral violations are slightly different. Further, we demonstrate that violations of moral concerns are felt in different parts of the body, and arguably result in different somatosensory experiences for liberals and conservatives. We also investigate how individual differences in moral concerns relate to bodily maps of moral violations. Finally, we use natural language processing to predict activation in body parts based on the semantic representation of textual stimuli. The findings shed light on the complex relationships between moral violations and somatosensory experiences.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Monitoring Moral Virtue: When the Moral Transgressions of In-Group Members Are Judged More Severely

Karim Bettache, Takeshi Hamamura, J.A. Idrissi, R.G.J. Amenyogbo, & C. Chiu
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
First Published December 5, 2018


Literature indicates that people tend to judge the moral transgressions committed by out-group members more severely than those of in-group members. However, these transgressions often conflate a moral transgression with some form of intergroup harm. There is little research examining in-group versus out-group transgressions of harmless offenses, which violate moral standards that bind people together (binding foundations). As these moral standards center around group cohesiveness, a transgression committed by an in-group member may be judged more severely. The current research presented Dutch Muslims (Study 1), American Christians (Study 2), and Indian Hindus (Study 3) with a set of fictitious stories depicting harmless and harmful moral transgressions. Consistent with our expectations, participants who strongly identified with their religious community judged harmless moral offenses committed by in-group members, relative to out-group members, more severely. In contrast, this effect was absent when participants judged harmful moral transgressions. We discuss the implications of these results.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Group-focused morality is associated with limited conflict detection and resolution capacity: Neuroanatomical evidence

Nash, Kyle, Baumgartner, Thomas, & Knoch, Daria
Biological Psychology
Volume 123, February 2017, Pages 235–240


Group-focused moral foundations (GMFs) − moral values that help protect the group’s welfare − sharply divide conservatives from liberals and religiously devout from non-believers. However, there is little evidence about what drives this divide. Moral foundations theory and the model of motivated social cognition both associate group-focused moral foundations with differences in conflict detection and resolution capacity, but in opposing directions. Individual differences in conflict detection and resolution implicate specific neuroanatomical differences. Examining neuroanatomy thus affords an objective and non-biased opportunity to contrast these influential theories. Here, we report that increased adherence to group-focused moral foundations was strongly associated (whole-brain corrected) with reduced gray matter volume in key regions of the conflict detection and resolution system (anterior cingulate cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex). Because reduced gray matter is reliably associated with reduced neural and cognitive capacity, these findings support the idea outlined in the model of motivated social cognition that belief in group-focused moral values is associated with reduced conflict detection and resolution capacity.

The article is here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Myth of Harmless Wrongs in Moral Cognition: Automatic Dyadic Completion From Sin to Suffering

By Kurt Gray, Chelsea Schein, and Adrian Ward
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
2014, Vol. 143, No. 4, 1600–1615


When something is wrong, someone is harmed. This hypothesis derives from the theory of dyadic
morality, which suggests a moral cognitive template of wrongdoing agent and suffering patient (i.e.,
victim). This dyadic template means that victimless wrongs (e.g., masturbation) are psychologically
incomplete, compelling the mind to perceive victims even when they are objectively absent. Five studies reveal that dyadic completion occurs automatically and implicitly: Ostensibly harmless wrongs are perceived to have victims (Study 1), activate concepts of harm (Studies 2 and 3), and increase perceptions of suffering (Studies 4 and 5). These results suggest that perceiving harm in immorality is intuitive and does not require effortful rationalization. This interpretation argues against both standard interpretations of moral dumbfounding and domain-specific theories of morality that assume the psychological existence of harmless wrongs. Dyadic completion also suggests that moral dilemmas in which wrongness (deontology) and harm (utilitarianism) conflict are unrepresentative of typical moral cognition.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Moral Mind-Sets: Abstract Thinking Increases a Preference for “Individualizing” Over “Binding” Moral Foundations

By Jaime L. Napier and Jamie B. Luguri
Social Psychological and Personality Science
November 2013 vol. 4 no. 6 754-759


Moral foundations theory contends that people’s morality goes beyond concerns about justice and welfare, and asserts that humans have five innate foundations of morality: harm and fairness (individualizing foundations) and in-group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity (binding foundations). The current research investigates whether people’s moral judgments are consistently informed by these five values, or whether individualizing and binding foundations might be differentially endorsed depending on individuals’ mind-sets. Results from our study demonstrated that when participants were experimentally manipulated to think abstractly (vs. concretely), which presumably makes their higher level core values salient, they increased in their valuations of the individualizing foundations and decreased in their valuations of the binding foundations. This effect was not moderated by political ideology. Implications and areas for future directions are discussed.

The entire article is here.