In some cases people judge it morally acceptable to sacrifice one person’s life in order to save several other lives, while in other similar cases they make the opposite judgment. Researchers have identified two general factors that may explain this phenomenon at the stimulus level: (1) the agent’s intention (i.e. whether the harmful event is intended as a means or merely foreseen as a side-effect) and (2) whether the agent harms the victim in a manner that is relatively “direct” or (...) “personal”. Here we integrate these two classes of findings. Two experiments examine a novel personalness/directness factor that we call personal force, present when the force that directly impacts the victim is generated by the agent’s muscles (e.g., in pushing). Experiments 1a and b demonstrate the influence of personal force on moral judgment, distinguishing it from physical contact and spatial proximity. Experiments 2a and b demonstrate an interaction between personal force and intention, whereby the effect of personal force depends entirely on intention. These studies also introduce a method for controlling for people’s real-world expectations in decisions involving potentially unrealistic hypothetical dilemmas. (shrink)
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. Collectively, these findings forge a link between two important yet previously independent lines of research in political psychology: cognitive style and moral foundations theory. (shrink)
To understand the structure of moral emotions poses a difficult challenge. For instance, why do liberals and conservatives see some moral issues similarly, but others starkly differently? Or, why does punishment depend on accidental variation in the severity of a harmful outcome, while judgments of wrongfulness or character do not? To resolve the complex design of morality, it helps to think in functional terms. Whether through learning, cultural evolution or natural selection, moral emotions will tend to guide behavior adaptively in (...) ordinary social situations. Thus, considering possible functions of morality can help us to comprehend its form. (shrink)
We propose that human social learning is subject to a trade-off between the cost of performing a computation and the flexibility of its outputs. Viewing social learning through this lens sheds light on cases that seem to violate bifocal stance theory (BST) – such as high-fidelity imitation in instrumental action – and provides a mechanism by which causal insight can be bootstrapped from imitation of cultural practices.
Each of the food-sharing models that Gurven considers demands unique cognitive capacities. Reciprocal altruism, in particular, requires a suite of complex abilities not required by alternatives such as tolerated scrounging. Integrating cognitive constraints with comparative data from other species can illuminate the adaptive benefits of food sharing in humans.