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

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Evangelical literary tradition and moral foundations theory

Christopher Douglas
The Journal of American Culture
Originally published 26 Feb 24

Here is an excerpt:

What can MFT tell us about the topography of evangelical ethics as displayed in its bestselling fiction of the last 20 years? In many ways, there is nothing surprising in these findings. As Haidt himself suggests, the five primary foundations discernably track onto political orientations, with conservatives balancing all five criteria but liberals prioritizing care and fairness (as equality): “it's not just members of traditional societies who draw on all five foundations; even within Western societies, we consistently find an ideological effect in which religious and cultural conservatives value and rely upon all five foundations, whereas liberals value and rely upon the harm and fairness foundations primarily” (Haidt, 2007, 1001). Or, in updated form: “Liberals have a three-foundation morality, whereas conservatives use all six” (Haidt, 2012, 214). The Shack seems to aptly confirm this insight, prioritizing care, fairness-as-justice, and egalitarianism at the expense of loyalty, authority, and purity. These values reflect the author's liberal sensibilities that were suggested when Young tweeted criticism of Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes were released (Douglas, 2020, 508n3). LaHaye's conservative credentials, meanwhile, are well known—early partner to Jerry Falwell in the formation of the Moral Majority, fundraiser for the Institute for Creation Research, and so on—and the Left Behind series suggests a mix of moral foundations that does not so much find a balance among all six foundations (as Haidt discovered seems to be true of “Very Conservatives”) as express a sort of Extremely Conservative sensibility. The Shack and the Left Behind series reflect the considerable range of white evangelical politics, but also reflect the fact that white evangelicals tilt heavily conservative, forming the most important demographic of the Republican base, voting for Donald Trump by 77 and 84% in 2016 and 2020, respectively (Igielnik et al., 2021).

Here is my summary:

The article explores the moral foundations of two evangelical best-selling novels: The Shack by William Paul Young and Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. It uses Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) to analyze how these seemingly very different novels prioritize different moral values.

Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) identifies five core moral foundations:
  • Care/Harm: Protecting others from harm and promoting their well-being.
  • Fairness/Cheating: Ensuring that people are treated justly and receive what they deserve.
  • Loyalty/Betrayal: Standing by your group and upholding your commitments.
  • Authority/Subversion: Respecting legitimate authority figures and hierarchies.
  • Sanctity/Degradation: Purity, avoiding disgust and respecting the sacred.
The Shack by William Paul Young grapples with the kidnapping, abuse, and murder of a child. It focuses on the themes of care/harm and fairness. The protagonist, Mack, wrestles with how God could allow such a tragedy to occur and how fairness can be achieved. The novel explores the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is a series about the Rapture and the End Times. It emphasizes the moral foundations of loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. The series depicts a world where good and evil are clearly defined and a battle between God and the Antichrist is about to unfold. The in-group of Christians is loyal to God and resists the authority of the Antichrist. The series emphasizes the importance of following God's will and upholding Christian values.

The article argues that MFT helps explain the enduring appeal of these novels.  The Shack resonates with readers who seek comfort and answers in the face of tragedy. Left Behind appeals to readers who feel like they are part of an embattled community and who believe in a clear distinction between good and evil.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Who did it? Moral wrongness for us and them in the UK, US, and Brazil

Paulo Sérgio Boggio, et al. (2023) 
Philosophical Psychology
DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2023.2278637


Morality has traditionally been described in terms of an impartial and objective “moral law”, and moral psychological research has largely followed in this vein, focusing on abstract moral judgments. But might our moral judgments be shaped not just by what the action is, but who is doing it? We looked at ratings of moral wrongness, manipulating whether the person doing the action was a friend, a refugee, or a stranger. We looked at these ratings across various moral foundations, and conducted the study in Brazil, US, and UK samples. Our most robust and consistent findings are that purity violations were judged more harshly when committed by ingroup members and less harshly when committed by the refugees in comparison to the unspecified agents, the difference between refugee and unspecified agents decays from liberals to conservatives, i.e., conservatives judge them more harshly than liberals do, and Brazilians participants are harsher than the US and UK participants. Our results suggest that purity violations are judged differently according to who committed them and according to the political ideology of the judges. We discuss the findings in light of various theories of groups dynamics, such as moral hypocrisy, moral disengagement, and the black sheep effect.

Here is my summary:

The study explores how moral judgments vary depending on both the agent committing the act and the nationality of the person making the judgment. The study's findings challenge the notion that moral judgments are universal and instead suggest that they are influenced by cultural and national factors.

The researchers investigated how participants from the UK, US, and Brazil judged moral violations committed by different agents: friends, strangers, refugees, and unspecified individuals. They found that participants from all three countries generally judged violations committed by friends more harshly than violations committed by other agents. However, there were also significant cultural differences in the severity of judgments. Brazilians tended to judge violations of purity as less wrong than Americans, but judged violations of care, liberty, and fairness as more wrong than Americans.

The study's findings suggest that moral judgments are not simply based on the severity of the act itself, but also on factors such as the relationship between the agent and the victim, and the cultural background of the person making the judgment. These findings have implications for understanding cross-cultural moral conflicts and for developing more effective moral education programs.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Morality beyond the WEIRD: How the nomological network of morality varies across cultures

Atari, M., Haidt, J., et al. (2023).
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Advance online publication.


Moral foundations theory has been a generative framework in moral psychology in the last 2 decades. Here, we revisit the theory and develop a new measurement tool, the Moral Foundations Questionnaire–2 (MFQ-2), based on data from 25 populations. We demonstrate empirically that equality and proportionality are distinct moral foundations while retaining the other four existing foundations of care, loyalty, authority, and purity. Three studies were conducted to develop the MFQ-2 and to examine how the nomological network of moral foundations varies across 25 populations. Study 1 (N = 3,360, five populations) specified a refined top-down approach for measurement of moral foundations. Study 2 (N = 3,902, 19 populations) used a variety of methods (e.g., factor analysis, exploratory structural equations model, network psychometrics, alignment measurement equivalence) to provide evidence that the MFQ-2 fares well in terms of reliability and validity across cultural contexts. We also examined population-level, religious, ideological, and gender differences using the new measure. Study 3 (N = 1,410, three populations) provided evidence for convergent validity of the MFQ-2 scores, expanded the nomological network of the six moral foundations, and demonstrated the improved predictive power of the measure compared with the original MFQ. Importantly, our results showed how the nomological network of moral foundations varied across cultural contexts: consistent with a pluralistic view of morality, different foundations were influential in the network of moral foundations depending on cultural context. These studies sharpen the theoretical and methodological resolution of moral foundations theory and provide the field of moral psychology a more accurate instrument for investigating the many ways that moral conflicts and divisions are shaping the modern world.

Here's my summary:

The article examines how the moral foundations theory (MFT) of morality applies to cultures outside of the Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) world. MFT proposes that there are six universal moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. However, previous research has shown that the relative importance of these foundations can vary across cultures.

The authors of the article conducted three studies to examine the nomological network of morality (i.e., the relationships between different moral foundations) in 25 populations. They found that the nomological network of morality varied significantly across cultures. For example, in some cultures, the foundation of care was more strongly related to the foundation of fairness, while in other cultures, the foundation of loyalty was more strongly related to the foundation of authority.

The authors argue that these findings suggest that MFT needs to be revised to take into account cultural variation. They propose that the nomological network of morality is shaped by a combination of universal moral principles and local cultural norms. This means that there is no single "correct" way to think about morality, and that what is considered moral in one culture may not be considered moral in another.

The article's findings have important implications for our understanding of morality and for cross-cultural research. They suggest that we need to be careful about making assumptions about the moral beliefs of people from other cultures. We also need to be aware of the ways in which culture can influence our own moral judgments.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The (moral) language of hate

Brendan Kennedy et al.
PNAS Nexus, Volume 2,
Issue 7, July 2023, 210


Humans use language toward hateful ends, inciting violence and genocide, intimidating and denigrating others based on their identity. Despite efforts to better address the language of hate in the public sphere, the psychological processes involved in hateful language remain unclear. In this work, we hypothesize that morality and hate are concomitant in language. In a series of studies, we find evidence in support of this hypothesis using language from a diverse array of contexts, including the use of hateful language in propaganda to inspire genocide (Study 1), hateful slurs as they occur in large text corpora across a multitude of languages (Study 2), and hate speech on social-media platforms (Study 3). In post hoc analyses focusing on particular moral concerns, we found that the type of moral content invoked through hate speech varied by context, with Purity language prominent in hateful propaganda and online hate speech and Loyalty language invoked in hateful slurs across languages. Our findings provide a new psychological lens for understanding hateful language and points to further research into the intersection of morality and hate, with practical implications for mitigating hateful rhetoric online.

Significance Statement

Only recently have researchers begun to propose that violence and prejudice may have roots in moral intuitions. Can it be the case, we ask, that the act of verbalizing hatred involves a moral component, and that hateful and moral language are inseparable constructs? Across three studies focusing on the language of morality and hate, including historical text analysis of Nazi propaganda, implicit associations across 25 languages, and extremist right-wing communications on social media, we demonstrate that moral language, and specifically, Purity-related language (i.e. language about physical purity, avoidance of disgusting things, and resisting our carnal desires in favor of a higher, divine nature) and Loyalty related language are concomitant with hateful and exclusionary language.


Here are some of the key findings of the study:
  • Hateful language is often associated with moral foundations such as purity, loyalty, and authority.
  • The type of moral content invoked through hate speech varies by context.
  • Purity language is prominent in hateful propaganda and online hate speech.
  • Loyalty language is invoked in hateful slurs across languages.
  • Authority language is invoked in hateful rhetoric that targets political figures or institutions.
The study's findings have important implications for understanding and mitigating hate speech.  By understanding the moral foundations that underlie hateful language, we can develop more effective strategies for countering it. For example, we can challenge the moral claims made by hate speech and offer alternative moral frameworks that promote tolerance and understanding.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Extended Moral Foundations Dictionary (eMFD): Development and Applications

Hopp, F. R., Fisher, J. T., Cornell, D.,
Huskey, R., & Weber, R. (2020, June 12).


Moral intuitions are a central motivator in human behavior. Recent work highlights the importance of moral intuitions for understanding a wide range of issues ranging from online radicalization to vaccine hesitancy. Extracting and analyzing moral content in messages, narratives, and other forms of public discourse is a critical step toward understanding how the psychological influence of moral judgments unfolds at a global scale. Extant approaches for extracting moral content are limited in their ability to capture the intuitive nature of moral sensibilities, constraining their usefulness for understanding and predicting human moral behavior. Here we introduce the extended Moral Foundations Dictionary (eMFD), a dictionary-based tool for extracting moral content from textual corpora. The eMFD, unlike previous methods, is constructed from text annotations generated by a large sample of human coders. We demonstrate that the eMFD outperforms existing approaches in a variety of domains. We anticipate that the eMFD will contribute to advance the study of moral intuitions and their influence on social, psychological, and communicative processes.

From the Discussion:

In  a  series  of  theoretically-informed  dictionary  validation  procedures,  we  demonstrated  the  eMFD’s increased  utility  compared  to  previous  moral  dictionaries.  First,  we  showed  that  the  eMFD  more accurately  predicts  the  presence  of  morally-relevant  article  topics  compared  to  previous  dictionaries. Second, we showed that the eMFD more effectively detects distinctions between the moral language used by  partisan  news  organizations.  Word  scores  returned  by  the  eMFD  confirm  that  conservative  sources place greater emphasis on the binding moral foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity, whereas more liberal  leaning  sources  tend  to  stress  the  individualizing  foundations  of  care  and  fairness,  supporting previous research on moral partisan news framing (Fulgoni et al., 2016). Third, we demonstrated that the eMFD more accurately predicts the share counts of morally-loaded online newspaper articles. The eMFD produced  a  better  model  fit  explained  more  variance  in  overall  share  counts  compared  to  previous approaches.  Finally,  we  demonstrated eMFD score’s  utility  for  linking  moral  actions  to  their  respective moral agents and targets.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Religion’s Impact on Conceptions of the Moral Domain

S. Levine, and others
PsyArXiv Preprints
Last edited 2 Jan 20


How does religious affiliation impact conceptions of the moral domain? Putting aside the question of whether people from different religions agree about how to answer moral questions, here we investigate a more fundamental question: How much disagreement is there across religions about which issues count as moral in the first place? That is, do people from different religions conceptualize the scope of morality differently? Using a new methodology to map out how individuals conceive of the moral domain, we find dramatic differences among adherents of different religions. Mormons and Muslims moralize their religious norms, while Jews do not. Hindus do not seem to make a moral/non-moral distinction at all. These results suggest that religious affiliation has a profound effect on conceptions of the scope of morality.

From the General Discussion:

The results of Study 3 and 3a are predicted by neither Social Domain Theory nor Moral Foundations Theory: It is neither true that secular people and religious people share a common conception of the moral domain (as Social Domain Theory argues), nor that religious morality is expanded beyond secular morality in a uniform manner (as Moral Foundations Theory suggests).When participants in a group did make a moral/non-moral distinction, there was broad agreement that norms related to harm, justice, and rights count as moral norms. However, some religious individuals (such as the Mormon and Muslim participants) also moralized norms from their own religion that are not related to these themes. Meanwhile, others (such as the Jewish participants) acknowledged the special status of their own norms but did not moralize them. Yet others (such as the Hindu participants) made no distinction between the moral and the non-moral. 

The research is here.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Moralized memory: binding values predict inflated estimates of the group’s historical influence

Luke Churchill, Jeremy K. Yamashiro & Henry L. Roediger III
Memory (2019)
DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2019.1623261


Collective memories are memories or historical knowledge shared by individual group members, which shape their collective identity. Ingroup inflation, which has previously also been referred to as national narcissism or state narcissism, is the finding that group members judge their own group to have been significantly more historically influential than do people from outside the group. We examined the role of moral motivations in this biased remembering. A sample of 2118 participants, on average 42 from each state of the United States, rated their home state’s contribution to U.S. history, as well as that of ten other states randomly selected. We demonstrated an ingroup inflation effect in estimates of the group’s historical influence. Participants’ endorsement of binding values – loyalty, authority, and sanctity, but particularly loyalty – positively predicted the size of this effect. Endorsement of individuating values – care and fairness – did not predict collective narcissism. Moral motives may shape biases in collective remembering.

The research can be found here.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Moral Judgment Toward Relationship Betrayals and Those Who Commit Them

Dylan Selterman Amy Moors Sena Koleva
Created on January 18, 2019


In three experimental studies (total N = 1,056), we examined moral judgments toward relationship betrayals, and how these judgments depended on whether characters and their actions were perceived to be pure and loyal compared to the level of harm caused. In Studies 1 and 2 the focus was confessing a betrayal, while in Study 3 the focus was on the act of sexual infidelity. Perceptions of harm/care were inconsistently and less strongly associated with moral judgment toward the behavior or the character, relative to perceptions of purity and loyalty, which emerged as key predictors of moral judgment across all studies. Our findings demonstrate that a diversity of cognitive factors play a key role in moral perception of relationship betrayals.

Here is part of the Discussion:

Some researchers have argued that perception of a harmed victim is the cognitive prototype by which people conceptualize immoral behavior (Gray et al.,2014).This perspective explains many phenomena within moral psychology.  However, other psychological templates may apply regarding sexual and relational behavior, and that purity and loyalty play a key role in explaining how people arrive at moral judgments toward sexual and relational violations. In conclusion, the current research adds to ongoing and fruitful research regarding the underlying psychological mechanisms involved in moral judgment. Importantly, the current studies extend our knowledge of moral judgments into the context of specific close relationship and sexual contexts that many people experience.

The research is here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Language analysis reveals recent and unusual 'moral polarisation' in Anglophone world

Andrew Masterson
Cosmos Magazine
Originally published March 4, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Words conveying moral values in more specific domains, however, did not always accord to a similar pattern – revealing, say the researchers, the changing prominence of differing sets of concerns surrounding concepts such as loyalty and betrayal, individualism, and notions of authority.

Remarkably, perhaps, the study is only the second in the academic literature that uses big data to examine shifts in moral values over time. The first, by psychologists Pelin and Selin Kesibir, and published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2012, used two approaches to track the frequency of morally-loaded words in a corpus of US books across the twentieth century.

The results revealed a “decline in the use of general moral terms”, and significant downturns in the use of words such as honesty, patience, and compassion.

Haslam and colleagues found that at headline level their results, using a larger dataset, reflected the earlier findings. However, fine-grain investigations revealed a more complex picture. Nevertheless, they say, the changes in the frequency of use for particular types of moral terms is sufficient to allow the twentieth century to be divided into five distinct historical periods.

The words used in the search were taken from lists collated under what is known as Moral Foundations Theory (MFT), a generally supported framework that rejects the idea that morality is monolithic. Instead, the researchers explain, MFT aims to “categorise the automatic and intuitive emotional reactions that commonly occur in moral evaluation across cultures, and [identifies] five psychological systems (or foundations): Harm, Fairness, Ingroup, Authority, and Purity.”

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Certain Moral Values May Lead to More Prejudice, Discrimination

American Psychological Association Pressor
Released December 20, 2018

People who value following purity rules over caring for others are more likely to view gay and transgender people as less human, which leads to more prejudice and support for discriminatory public policies, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“After the Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality and the debate over bathroom rights for transgender people, we realized that the arguments were often not about facts but about opposing moral beliefs,” said Andrew E. Monroe, PhD, of Appalachian State University and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General®.

“Thus, we wanted to understand if moral values were an underlying cause of prejudice toward gay and transgender people.”

Monroe and his co-author, Ashby Plant, PhD, of Florida State University, focused on two specific moral values — what they called sanctity, or a strict adherence to purity rules and disgust over any acts that are considered morally contaminating, and care, which centers on disapproval of others who cause suffering without just cause — because they predicted those values might be behind the often-heated debates over LGBTQ rights. 

The researchers conducted five experiments with nearly 1,100 participants. Overall, they found that people who prioritized sanctity over care were more likely to believe that gay and transgender people, people with AIDS and prostitutes were more impulsive, less rational and, therefore, something less than human. These attitudes increased prejudice and acceptance of discriminatory public policies, according to Monroe.

The info is here.

The research is here.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Theory of Dyadic Morality: Reinventing Moral Judgment by Redefining Harm

Chelsea Schein & Kurt Gray
Personality and Social Psychology Review
Volume: 22 issue: 1, page(s): 32-70
Article first published online: May 14, 2017; Issue published: February 1, 2018


The nature of harm—and therefore moral judgment—may be misunderstood. Rather than an objective matter of reason, we argue that harm should be redefined as an intuitively perceived continuum. This redefinition provides a new understanding of moral content and mechanism—the constructionist Theory of Dyadic Morality (TDM). TDM suggests that acts are condemned proportional to three elements: norm violations, negative affect, and—importantly—perceived harm. This harm is dyadic, involving an intentional agent causing damage to a vulnerable patient (A→P). TDM predicts causal links both from harm to immorality (dyadic comparison) and from immorality to harm (dyadic completion). Together, these two processes make the “dyadic loop,” explaining moral acquisition and polarization. TDM argues against intuitive harmless wrongs and modular “foundations,” but embraces moral pluralism through varieties of values and the flexibility of perceived harm. Dyadic morality impacts understandings of moral character, moral emotion, and political/cultural differences, and provides research guidelines for moral psychology.

The review is here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Assessing the contextual stability of moral foundations: Evidence from a survey experiment

David Ciuk
Research and Politics
First Published June 20, 2018


Moral foundations theory (MFT) claims that individuals use their intuitions on five “virtues” as guidelines for moral judgment, and recent research makes the case that these intuitions cause people to adopt important political attitudes, including partisanship and ideology. New work in political science, however, demonstrates not only that the causal effect of moral foundations on these political predispositions is weaker than once thought, but it also opens the door to the possibility that causality runs in the opposite direction—from political predispositions to moral foundations. In this manuscript, I build on this new work and test the extent to which partisan and ideological considerations cause individuals’ moral foundations to shift in predictable ways. The results show that while these group-based cues do exert some influence on moral foundations, the effects of outgroup cues are particularly strong. I conclude that small shifts in political context do cause MFT measures to move, and, to close, I discuss the need for continued theoretical development in MFT as well as an increased attention to measurement.

The research is here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Resisting Temptation for the Good of the Group: Binding Moral Values and the Moralization of Self-Control

Mooijman, Marlon; Meindl, Peter; Oyserman, Daphna; Monterosso, John; Dehghani, Morteza; Doris, John M.; Graham, Jesse
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jun 12 , 2017.


When do people see self-control as a moral issue? We hypothesize that the group-focused “binding” moral values of Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Purity/degradation play a particularly important role in this moralization process. Nine studies provide support for this prediction. First, moralization of self-control goals (e.g., losing weight, saving money) is more strongly associated with endorsing binding moral values than with endorsing individualizing moral values (Care/harm, Fairness/cheating). Second, binding moral values mediate the effect of other group-focused predictors of self-control moralization, including conservatism, religiosity, and collectivism. Third, guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about binding moral values increases moralization of self-control more than guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about individualizing moral values. Fourth, we replicate our core finding that moralization of self-control is associated with binding moral values across studies differing in measures and design—whether we measure the relationship between moral and self-control language across time, the perceived moral relevance of self-control behaviors, or the moral condemnation of self-control failures. Taken together, our findings suggest that self-control moralization is primarily group-oriented and is sensitive to group-oriented cues.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Act Versus Impact: Conservatives and Liberals Exhibit Different Structural Emphases in Moral Judgment

Ivar R. Hannikainen, M. Miller, A. Cushman
Ratio. (2017 )


Conservatives and liberals disagree sharply on matters of morality and public policy. We propose a novel account of the psychological basis of these differences. Specifically, we find that conservatives tend to emphasize the intrinsic value of actions during moral judgment, in part by mentally simulating themselves performing those actions, while liberals instead emphasize the value of the expected outcomes of the action. We then demonstrate that a structural emphasis on actions is linked to the condemnation of victimless crimes, a distinctive feature of conservative morality. Next, we find that the conservative and liberal structural approaches to moral judgment are associated with their corresponding patterns of reliance on distinct moral foundations. In addition, the structural approach uniquely predicts that conservatives will be more opposed to harm in circumstances like the well-known trolley problem, a result which we replicate. Finally, we show that the structural approaches of conservatives and liberals are partly linked to underlying cognitive styles (intuitive versus deliberative). Collectively, these findings forge a link between two important yet previously independent lines of research in political psychology: cognitive style and moral foundations theory.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Act versus Impact: Conservatives and Liberals Exhibit Different Structural Emphases in Moral Judgment

Ivar R. Hannikainen, Ryan M. Miller, & Fiery A. Cushman
Ratio: Special Issue on ‘Experimental Philosophy as Applied Philosophy’

Conservatives and liberals disagree sharply on matters of morality and public policy. We propose a
novel account of the psychological basis of these differences. Specifically, we find that conservatives
tend to emphasize the intrinsic value of actions during moral judgment, in part by mentally simulating themselves performing those actions, while liberals instead emphasize the value of the expected outcomes of the action. We then demonstrate that a structural emphasis on actions is linked to the condemnation of victimless crimes, a distinctive feature of conservative morality. Next, we find that the conservative and liberal structural approaches to moral judgment are associated with their corresponding patterns of reliance on distinct moral foundations. In addition, the structural approach uniquely predicts that conservatives will be more opposed to harm in circumstances like the wellknown trolley problem, a result which we replicate. Finally, we show that the structural approaches of conservatives and liberals are partly linked to underlying cognitive styles (intuitive versus deliberative).  Collectively, these findings forge a link between two important yet previously independent lines of research in political psychology: cognitive style and moral foundations theory.

The article is here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why Are Conservatives More Punitive Than Liberals? A Moral Foundations Approach.

Jasmine R. Silver and Eric Silver
Law and Human Behavior, Feb 02 , 2017,

Morality is thought to underlie both ideological and punitive attitudes. In particular, moral foundations research suggests that group-oriented moral concerns promote a conservative orientation, while individual-oriented moral concerns promote a liberal orientation (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009). Drawing on classical sociological theory, we argue that endorsement of group-oriented moral concerns also elicits higher levels of punitiveness by promoting a view of crime as being perpetrated against society, while endorsement of individual-oriented moral concerns reduces punitiveness by directing attention toward the welfare of offenders as well as victims. Data from 2 independent samples (N = 1,464 and N = 1,025) showed that endorsement of group-oriented moral concerns was associated with more punitive and more conservative attitudes, while endorsement of individual-oriented moral concerns was associated with less punitive and less conservative attitudes. These results suggest that the association between conservatism and punitiveness is in part spurious because of their grounding in the moral foundations. Consequently, studies that do not take the moral foundations into account are at risk of overstating the relationship between conservatism and punitiveness.

The abstract is here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Getting Emotions Right in Moral Psychology

Piercarlo Valdesolo


The past two decades of research has repeatedly identified the importance of emotion to moral
judgment, but moral psychology continues to be in need of more nuanced and developed theories
of emotion to inform its process models. Closer attention to how modern affective science has
divided the landscape of emotions can not only help more accurately map the moral domain, but
also help solve current theoretical debates.


Basic Emotions and Moral Foundations

MFT argues for the existence of moral foundations comprised of innate cognitive
mechanisms that are responsive to a set of particular adaptive concerns relevant to social living
(e.g. protecting children, forming coalitions). These mechanisms are triggered by particular social
cues (e.g. distress, cheating, uncleanliness), and in turn trigger psychological responses, including
characteristic emotional states, geared towards motivating adaptive behavioral responses. In
keeping with BET, these characteristic emotions represent distinct biological mechanisms thought
to “prompt us in a direction that, in the course of our evolution, has done better than other
solutions in recurring circumstances” (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011, p.364).

Critics of whole number approaches to morality, however, have argued that it is precisely
this conceptual reliance on BET that is problematic (Cameron et al 2013; Schein & Gray; Gray &
Keeney 2015a; Gray, Young and Waytz 2012; Cheng?). These researchers argue that in adopting
this theory of emotions, any theory of distinct moral domains rests on an empirically untenable
basis. Specifically, given that there is no good evidence showing that discrete emotions reflect
“affect programs”, or any other kind of consistent and coordinated affective response specific to
particular kinds of adaptive challenges, then there will likely be no solid empirical basis to accept
the existence of consistent and coordinated psychological responses to discrete moral concerns.

The paper is here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Tale of Two Moralities, Part 1

Will Wilkinson
Niskanen Center
Originally posted January 19, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Because “the establishment” (including the Republican political establishment) is relatively cosmopolitan and liberal (in the broad sense), an outpouring of populist anti-establishment sentiment is going to assume a nationalistic, illiberal form more or less by default. The good news is that anti-elite anybody-but-Hillary-ism doesn’t really imply serious public appetite for anything like alt-right authoritarianism. The bad news is that the liberal-democratic capitalist welfare state and the so-called “neoliberal” global order is far and away the best humanity has ever done, and we’ve taken it for granted. We could very well trash it in a fit of pique, and wind up a middle-income kleptocracy boiling with civil strife and/or destabilize the global order in a way that ends in utter horror.

It is very important to keep this from happening! And that means it’s important to understand the mechanisms underlying our cultural and moral polarization. That’s what I’m going to begin to do in this (long!) post, in a preliminary, speculative, exploratory spirit. I want to push a little deeper than the prevailing journalistic narratives have gone, and churn up some credible empirical hypotheses that I hope will help us eventually home in on the correct diagnosis. Then we can hazard some recommendations that may help reduce polarization and mitigate its bad effects. I’ll do that in a future post.  

This important blog post is here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Understanding America’s Moral Divides

Julie Beck
The Atlantic
Originally published December 14, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Part of why it’s easy for anyone to see themselves, or the groups they belong to, as super moral is because morality itself is a vague concept. “You can have one person, for instance, who cares very deeply for their friends and family and would go to the ends of the earth for these people,” Tappin says. “And yet they don’t, say, give a dime to foreign charity. And then you’ve got another person who spends their entire life donating money overseas, yet in their interpersonal life, perhaps they don’t treat their family members very well. In those cases, how do you compare who’s more moral? It seems quite impossible to judge and it’s just at the mercy of people’s preferences.”

Haidt’s work identifies six different moral metrics—liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority, care, and purity. Different groups and cultures prefer to emphasize these domains to different degrees. For example, people in Eastern countries tend to emphasize purity and loyalty more than people in Western countries. People who live in countries where there has historically been higher prevalence of disease also place a higher value on purity, as well as loyalty and authority. In the United States, liberals tend to focus mostly on care, fairness, and liberty, while conservatives generally emphasize all six domains. Other research shows that people rate the moral values a group holds as the most important characteristic affecting whether they’re proud to be a member of the group, or more likely to distance themselves from it.

The article is here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Do conservatives value ‘moral purity’ more than liberals?

Kate Johnson and Joe Hoover
The Conversation
Originally posted November 21, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Our results were remarkably consistent with our first study. When people thought the person they were being partnered with did not share their purity concerns, they tended to avoid them. And, when people thought their partner did share their purity concerns, they wanted to associate with them.

As on Twitter, people were much more likely to associate with the other person when they had similar response to the moral purity scenarios and to avoid them when they had dissimilar response. And this pattern of responding was much stronger for purity concerns than similarities or differences for any other moral concerns, regardless of people’s religious and political affiliation and the religious and political affiliation they attributed to their partner.

There are many examples of how moral purity concerns are woven deeply into the fabric of social life. For example, have you noticed that when we derogate another person or social group we often rely on adjectives like “dirty,” and “disgusting”? Whether we are talking about “dirty hippies” or an entire class of “untouchables” or “deplorables,” we tend to signal inferiority and separation through moral terms grounded in notions of bodily and spiritual purity.

The article is here.