Liberals and Conservatives Rely on Different Sets of Moral Foundations

Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 06/2009; 96(5):1029-46. DOI: 10.1037/a0015141
Source: PubMed


How and why do moral judgments vary across the political spectrum? To test moral foundations theory (J. Haidt & J. Graham, 2007; J. Haidt & C. Joseph, 2004), the authors developed several ways to measure people's use of 5 sets of moral intuitions: Harm/care, Fairness/reciprocity, Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect, and Purity/sanctity. Across 4 studies using multiple methods, liberals consistently showed greater endorsement and use of the Harm/care and Fairness/reciprocity foundations compared to the other 3 foundations, whereas conservatives endorsed and used the 5 foundations more equally. This difference was observed in abstract assessments of the moral relevance of foundation-related concerns such as violence or loyalty (Study 1), moral judgments of statements and scenarios (Study 2), "sacredness" reactions to taboo trade-offs (Study 3), and use of foundation-related words in the moral texts of religious sermons (Study 4). These findings help to illuminate the nature and intractability of moral disagreements in the American "culture war."

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    • "There is probably no moral intuition more fundamental and ubiquitous than the rejection of cruelty or the infliction of harm for purely selfish reasons (Gert, 2004; Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009; Greene, 2012; Henrich et al., 2006; Piazza, Landy, & Goodwin, 2014; Pinker, 2012; Sinnott-Armstrong, 2009; Sousa, Holbrook, & Piazza, 2009; Sousa & Piazza, 2014; Turiel, 1983). Historically, societies have not always agreed on which actions constitute cruelty or which individuals and entities are deserving of protection from such abuses (Haslam & Loughnan, 2014; Piazza et al., 2014; Singer, 2011). "
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    • "Whereas right-wing ideology is associated with resistance to change and the acceptance of inequality, left-wing ideology is associated with advocating change and the rejection of inequality (Jost, Federico, & Napier, 2009). According to the Moral Foundations Theory (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009;Haidt & Graham, 2007;Haidt & Joseph, 2004), rightists and leftists also differ with respect to the moral values they endorse. While leftists pertains to fairness and care, rightists pertains to loyalty, authority, and purity. "
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    • "We stress here that moral foundations can be thought of as moral systems involving an " interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities , institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible " (Haidt & Kesebir, 2010). Those foundations are differentially activated depending upon the psychological needs of the individual (Graham et al., 2009; Haidt, 2013) and may be prioritized based on the saliency of certain motivations (Bassett, Van Tongeren, Green, Sonntag, & Kilpatrick, 2015). "
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