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 Narratives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Narratives. 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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

This algorithm could predict your health, income, and chance of premature death

Holly Barker
Originally published 18 DEC 23

Here is an excerpt:

The researchers trained the model, called “life2vec,” on every individual’s life story between 2008 to 2016, and the model sought patterns in these stories. Next, they used the algorithm to predict whether someone on the Danish national registers had died by 2020.

The model’s predictions were accurate 78% of the time. It identified several factors that favored a greater risk of premature death, including having a low income, having a mental health diagnosis, and being male. The model’s misses were typically caused by accidents or heart attacks, which are difficult to predict.

Although the results are intriguing—if a bit grim—some scientists caution that the patterns might not hold true for non-Danish populations. “It would be fascinating to see the model adapted using cohort data from other countries, potentially unveiling universal patterns, or highlighting unique cultural nuances,” says Youyou Wu, a psychologist at University College London.

Biases in the data could also confound its predictions, she adds. (The overdiagnosis of schizophrenia among Black people could cause algorithms to mistakenly label them at a higher risk of premature death, for example.) That could have ramifications for things such as insurance premiums or hiring decisions, Wu adds.

Here is my summary:

A new algorithm, trained on a mountain of Danish life stories, can peer into your future with unsettling precision. It can predict your health, income, and even your odds of an early demise. This, achieved by analyzing the sequence of life events, like getting a job or falling ill, raises both possibilities and ethical concerns.

On one hand, imagine the potential for good: nudges towards healthier habits or financial foresight, tailored to your personal narrative. On the other, anxieties around bias and discrimination loom. We must ensure this powerful tool is used wisely, for the benefit of all, lest it exacerbate existing inequalities or create new ones. The algorithm’s gaze into the future, while remarkable, is just that – a glimpse, not a script. 

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.