The moral domain is broader than the empathy and justice concerns assessed by existing measures of moral competence, and it is not just a subset of the values assessed by value inventories. To fill the need for reliable and theoretically grounded measurement of the full range of moral concerns, we developed the Moral Foundations Questionnaire on the basis of a theoretical model of 5 universally available sets of moral intuitions: Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. We present evidence for the (...) internal and external validity of the scale and the model, and in doing so we present new findings about morality: Comparative model fitting of confirmatory factor analyses provides empirical justification for a 5-factor structure of moral concerns; convergent/discriminant validity evidence suggests that moral concerns predict personality features and social group attitudes not previously considered morally relevant; and we establish pragmatic validity of the measure in providing new knowledge and research opportunities concerning demographic and cultural differences in moral intuitions. These analyses provide evidence for the usefulness of Moral Foundations Theory in simultaneously increasing the scope and sharpening the resolution of psychological views of morality. (shrink)
Commentators have noted that the issue stands taken by each side of the American “culture war” lack conceptual consistency and can even seem contradictory. We sought to understand the psychological underpinnings of culture war attitudes using Moral Foundations Theory. In two studies involving 24,739 participants and 20 such issues, we found that endorsement of five moral foundations predicted judgments about these issues over and above ideology, age, gender, religious attendance, and interest in politics. Our results suggest that dispositional tendencies, particularly (...) a person’s moral intuitions, may underlie, motivate, and unite ideological positions across a variety of issues and offer new insights into the multiple “moral threads” connecting disparate political positions. (shrink)
Several scholars have recognized the limitations of theories of moral reasoning in explaining moral behavior. They have argued that moral behavior may also be influenced by moral identity, or how central morality is to one’s sense of self. This idea has been supported by findings that people who exemplify moral behavior tend to place more importance on moral traits when defining their self-concepts (Colby & Damon, 1995). This paper takes the next step of examining individual variation in a construct highly (...) associated with immoral behavior — psychopathy. In Study 1, we test the hypothesis that individuals with a greater degree of psychopathic traits have a weaker moral identity. Within a large online sample, we found that individuals who scored higher on a measure of psychopathic traits were less likely to base their self-concepts on moral traits. In Study 2, we test whether this reduced sense of moral identity can be attributed to differences in moral judgment, which is another factor that could influence immoral behavior. Our results indicated that the reduced sense of moral identity among more psychopathic individuals was independent of variation in moral judgment. These results suggest that individuals with psychopathic traits may display immoral behavior partially because they do not construe their personal identities in moral terms. (shrink)
Our inability to feel what others feel makes it difficult to understand how they think. Because moral intuitions organize political attitudes, moral empathy gaps can exacerbate political conflict (and other kinds of conflict as well) by contributing to the perception that people who do not share our moral opinions are unintelligent and/or have malevolent intentions.
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”—so says Hanlon’s Razor. This principle is designed to curb the human tendency toward explaining other people’s behavior by moralizing it. We ask whether Hanlon’s Razor is good or bad advice. After offering a nuanced interpretation of the principle, we critically evaluate two strategies purporting to show it is good advice. Our discussion highlights important, unsettled questions about an idea that has the potential to infuse greater humility and civility into (...) discourse and debate. (shrink)