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Ideological differences in the expanse of the moral circle

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Do clashes between ideologies reflect policy differences or something more fundamental? The present research suggests they reflect core psychological differences such that liberals express compassion toward less structured and more encompassing entities (i.e., universalism), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-defined and less encompassing entities (i.e., parochialism). Here we report seven studies illustrating universalist versus parochial differences in compassion. Studies 1a-1c show that liberals, relative to conservatives, express greater moral concern toward friends relative to family, and the world relative to the nation. Studies 2a-2b demonstrate these universalist versus parochial preferences extend toward simple shapes depicted as proxies for loose versus tight social circles. Using stimuli devoid of political relevance demonstrates that the universalist-parochialist distinction does not simply reflect differing policy preferences. Studies 3a-3b indicate these universalist versus parochial tendencies extend to humans versus nonhumans more generally, demonstrating the breadth of these psychological differences.
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ARTICLE
Ideological differences in the expanse of the
moral circle
Adam Waytz1, Ravi Iyer2, Liane Young3, Jonathan Haidt4& Jesse Graham5
Do clashes between ideologies reect policy differences or something more fundamental?
The present research suggests they reect core psychological differences such that liberals
express compassion toward less structured and more encompassing entities (i.e., uni-
versalism), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-dened and less
encompassing entities (i.e., parochialism). Here we report seven studies illustrating uni-
versalist versus parochial differences in compassion. Studies 1a-1c show that liberals, relative
to conservatives, express greater moral concern toward friends relative to family, and the
world relative to the nation. Studies 2a-2b demonstrate these universalist versus parochial
preferences extend toward simple shapes depicted as proxies for loose versus tight social
circles. Using stimuli devoid of political relevance demonstrates that the universalist-
parochialist distinction does not simply reect differing policy preferences. Studies 3a-3b
indicate these universalist versus parochial tendencies extend to humans versus nonhumans
more generally, demonstrating the breadth of these psychological differences.
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12227-0 OPEN
1Northwestern University, 2211 Campus Dr, Evanston, IL 60208, USA. 2Facebook, 12721W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066, USA. 3Boston College,
Gasson Hall, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. 4New York University, Kaufman Management Center, 44 West Fourth Street, 7-
98, New York, NY 10012, USA. 5University of Utah, Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building, 1655 East Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.W. (email: a-waytz@kellogg.northwestern.edu)
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In 2006, then Democratic Senator Barack Obama bemoaned
the countrysempathy decit,telling college graduates, I
hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of
concern.In 2012, Republican presidential challenger Mitt
Romney said, President Obama promised to begin to slow the
rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you
and your family.
The distinction between Obama and Romney captures the
distinct worldviews of American political liberals and con-
servatives, respectively. Romney prioritized the family unit,
whereas Obama highlighted the planet broadly. This difference in
parochialism versus universalism became exacerbated during the
2016 presidential election, with one article noting, Trump vs.
Hillary Is Nationalism vs. Globalism, 20161,contrasting the
more parochial Republican candidate with the more universalist
Democratic candidate. Others have characterized the Trump
administrations policy decisions as battles between nationalists
(typied by parochialism) and globalists (typied by uni-
versalism)2.
These differential tendencies toward parochialism and uni-
versalism on the political right and left, respectively, extend
beyond the United States as well. For example, leading French
right-wing politician, Marie Le Pen declared in 2016, The gap is
not between the Left and the Right, but between globalists and
patriots. The globalists are acting for the dilution of France and its
people in a huge worldwide magma. The patriots hope that the
nation constitutes the most protective space for the French3.
Across Western Europe, ideological battles between the left and
right have centered on this tension between universalism and
parochialism.
Universalism refers to moral regard directed toward more
socially distant and structurally looser targets, relative to socially
closer and structurally tighter targets. Parochialism refers to
moral regard directed toward socially closer and structurally
tighter targets, relative to socially more distant and structurally
looser targets. Universalist moral circles and parochial moral
circles in this context are concentric, with one encompassing the
other. These circles refer to groups of targets toward which one
expends moral regard, and reect the concept of moral circles
popularized by Singer4(see also Burke5). They are akin to the idea
of moral communities that comprise ones in groups (discussed
by Deutsch et al.6,7), in which entities can be included or excluded
as worthy of moral regard, as well as to concentric circles of
identity dened by self-categorization theory (whereby ones self-
concept can include increasingly distant social groups depending
on ones level of abstraction)8. While parochialsometimes has a
negative connotation, we do not imply any such evaluation here
and simply use it to describe maintaining a tight (versus loose)
moral circle.
Previous research supports this universalistparochial distinc-
tion between liberals and conservatives9. For instance, con-
servatives, relative to liberals, express greater need for closure,
order, and structure1012. Personality research shows social lib-
erals consistently score higher on openness, whereas social con-
servatives score higher on conscientiousness13. Taken together,
existing work suggests that political conservatism reects a
greater tendency to seek structure, to avoid ambiguity, changes to
the status quo, and novelty. By this account, political liberalism
represents greater comfort with lack of structure, new experi-
ences, and novel information.
Given ideological differences in open versus closed styles of
information processing, moral concern might follow a similar
pattern. In prioritizing closure, order, and stability, conservatives
should express concern toward smaller, more well-dened, and
less permeable social circles (relative to broader ones). In prior-
itizing openness, tolerance for ambiguity, and desire for change,
liberals should express concern toward larger, less well-dened,
and more permeable social circles (relative to smaller ones).
Beyond low-level cognitive and motivational differences, one
additional line of work supports the ideological distinction between
parochialuniversalist differences in compassion. This line of
research stems from Moral Foundations Theory (MFT)1416,
which characterizes liberals and conservatives as diverging along
two classes of intuitive moral values. Liberals care about harm and
fairness (individualizing values), whereas conservatives care more
about loyalty, authority, and sanctity (binding values). This
research again suggests a differing focus such that liberals tend to
express compassion toward individuals broadly construed, whereas
conservatives emphasize compassion toward their immediate
social groups. Supporting this idea, separate work indeed found
that endorsement of individualizing values is positively correlated
with moral expansiveness (moral consideration for entities,
including plants and animals, beyond ones immediate in group)
whereas endorsement of binding values is negatively correlated
with moral expansiveness17.
The present research provides empirical evidence for these
differing ideological patterns of compassion and extends these
patterns to stimuli across a range of measures. This work also
shows these broader ideological differences are rooted in per-
ceptual differences. These differences appear to stem also from a
broader historical trend that has accelerated in recent decades as
most countries have become wealthier and safer. Christian Wel-
zel, a lead researcher for the World Values Survey, has described
how reduced existential threatschange values:
Fading existential pressures open peoples minds, making
them prioritize freedom over security, autonomy over
authority, diversity over uniformity, and creativity over
disciplinethe existentially relieved state of mind is the
source of tolerance and solidarity beyond ones in group18.
Our research is consistent with Welzels characterization of the
general shift from survival valuesthat increase dependence on
close others, to emancipative valuesthat downplay local ties
and loyaltiesand lead people to look farther aeld for social
relationships.
These studies aim to connect Singers4idea of the moral circle
to empirical political psychology. Beyond demonstrating a
universalistparochial distinction between liberals and con-
servatives, this research examines whether this distinction reects
mere political preferences, or something deeper. Universalism
may reect favorability toward policies that promote open bor-
ders (and encourage immigration) and that promote diplomacy
toward ostensibly hostile nations. Such policies represent
extending moral regard beyond ones immediate group (e.g., the
nation) and to the world more broadly. Similarly, parochialism
may reect favorability toward stricter immigration policies and
defense spending to protect ones nationthese policies represent
prioritizing the well-being of ones own nation at the potential
expense of others. On the other hand, if the universalistparochial
distinction reects a worldview beyond policy interests, then it
should reect evaluations of stimuli completely devoid of social or
political relevance, for example abstract, animate shapes. Thus,
we tested whether liberals and conservatives would display uni-
versalist and parochialist tendencies, respectively, in terms basic
perceptual preferences. Finally, we examined whether this
universalistparochialist difference would map on to moral
concern for humans exclusively versus a broader conception of
the moral universe that includes nonhumans as well. Importantly,
this work uses both measures developed for this work that
explicitly capture the expanse of ones moral circle as well as
established measures that assess moral consideration for specic
targets, to provide convergent evidence across studies.
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Studies 1a1c examine universalist versus parochial differences
in the domains of friends versus family (friends typically con-
stitute a larger, broader and more diffuse group than family) and
the world versus the nation (the world encompasses ones
nation). Studies 2a2b show this universalistparochial distinc-
tion maps on to abstract entities (animated shapes) distinguished
only by low-level perceptual properties. Studies 3a3b demon-
strate that this universalistparochial distinction maps on to
moral concern for humans exclusively compared with a social
world that includes nonhumans. Across studies, we predicted that
liberalism versus conservatism would be associated with uni-
versalism relative to parochialism, even in the context of pre-
ference for shapes devoid of social relevance and humans versus
nonhumans.
Results
For all results in this paper, p-values that follow the label rwere
generated from Pearsons correlations and p-values that follow
standardized betas were generated from t-tests on regressions. All
other statistical tests are specied.
Study 1a tests the hypothesis that liberalism and conservatism
would correlate with love for friends and love for family,
respectively. The results showed conservatism was positively
related to love of family, r(3,362) =0.065, p< 0.001, and nega-
tively related to love of friends, r(3,360) =0.065, p< 0.001 (for
means, see Fig. 1) (see Supplementary Note 2 for exploration of
quadratic effects). Admittedly, these correlations are exceedingly
small and should be interpreted with caution. Critically, however,
Steiger z-tests conducted on participants who had scores for each
of these scales demonstrated that these correlations differed from
each other (zs > 2.87, ps < 0.004). In addition, conservatism was
unrelated to romantic love (r=0.01, p=0.68) (a construct that
combines friendship and family relations) and was negatively
correlated with love for all others, r(3,362) =0.20, p< 0.001
this result suggests liberalism is associated with a more uni-
versalist sense of compassion.
Separate multiple regressions in which romantic love, love of
friends, love of family, and love of all others were the outcome
variables and political ideology, age, gender, and education were
predictor variables revealed that the effect of political ideology
remained the samesignicant for love of friends, love of family,
love of all others, and nonsignicant for romantic love (see Table 1
for standardized betas). These analyses suggest that political
ideology meaningfully affects love of friends, family, and others
universally, independent of other related demographic variables.
Study 1b tests the hypothesis that just as liberalism and con-
servatism will correspond to valuing the world and valuing the
nation, respectively. Conservative ideology was negatively corre-
lated with universalism, r(13,154) =0.41, p< 0.001, again
demonstrating that conservatism is negatively related to a uni-
versal love of others, whereas liberalism is positively related to
this sense of universal compassion. In addition, conservative
ideology was positively correlated with nationalism, r(13,030) =
0.46, p< 0.001 (see Fig. 2for means). A Steiger ztest on parti-
cipants who had scores on both of these measures demonstrated
that these correlations differed signicantly from one another
(z=77.04, p< 0.001).
Separate multiple regressions in which universalism and
nationalism were the outcome variables, respectively and political
ideology, age, gender, and education were predictor variables,
revealed that the effect of political ideology persisted (see
Table 1). Liberalism continued to predict universalism sig-
nicantly whereas conservatism continued to predict nationalism
signicantly. These ndings suggest that political ideology
meaningfully affects universalism and nationalism, independent
of other related demographic variables.
Like Study 1b, Study 1c tests the hypothesis that conservatism
corresponds to a more parochial or national sense of compassion
whereas liberalism corresponds to a universal sense of compas-
sion. Conservatism correlated with identication with country, r
(14,176) =0.28, p< 0.001 a liberalism correlated with identica-
tion with the world, r(14,176) =0.34, p< 0.001. In addition,
conservatism showed a small but signicant correlation with
identication with community, r(14,176) =0.074, p< 0.001.
Steiger ztests demonstrated that the correlations differed sig-
nicantly for community and country (z=26.74, p< 0.001), for
country and all humans (z=67.09, p< 0.001), and for commu-
nity and all humans (z=43.95, p< 0.001) (for means, see Fig. 3).
Separate multiple regressions in which identication with
community, identication with country, and identication with
all humanity were the outcome variables and political ideology,
6
Love of family
Love of friends
Love of all others
4
Rating
2
Very liberal
Liberal
Moderate
Slightly liberal
Slightly conservative
Conservative
Very conservative
Fig. 1 Love by political ideology, Study 1a. Error bars represent standard errors, solid lines indicate means. Source data are provided as a Source Data le
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age, gender, and education were predictor variables revealed that
the effect of political ideology remained the same (see Table 1).
These analyses suggest that political ideology meaningfully affects
identication with community, country, and all humans, inde-
pendent of other related demographic variables.
Studies 1a1c demonstrate that conservatives are more parochial
than liberalstheir moral circles are more constrained. This poli-
tical difference manifests at the level of family versus friends and the
nation versus the world. These differences are perhaps unsurprising
given well-known policy disagreements on issues affecting these
specic circles of family, friends/community, nation, and
world16,19,20. If ideological differences in compassion simply reect
policy issue differences, then they should affect attitudes toward
targets relevant to these social issues. However, if these ideological
differences permeate more deeply into liberals and conservatives
general worldviews they should manifest in evaluations of targets
completely devoid of social and political relevance. We test this
possibility in Studies 2a and 2b.
Study 2a tested whether conservatives (relative to liberals)
would prefer tight (relative to loose) geometric structures. We
further predicted that these differing preferences would corre-
spond to compassion toward social circles (that involved speci-
cally human targets) examined in Studies 1a1c. Conservatism
was associated signicantly with preference for tightness relative
Table 1 Standardized betas for regressions using political ideology, education, age, and gender
Study Outcome measure Political ideology Education Age Gender
1a Romantic love 0.01 0.05* 0.02 0.10**
1a Love of family 0.10** 0.05** 0.07** 0.14**
1a Love of friends 0.05** 0.01 0.015 0.17**
1a Love of all others 0.17** 0.01 0.175** 0.19**
1b Nationalism 0.45** 0.06** 0.19** 0.035**
1b Universalism 0.42** 0.06** 0.18** 0.13**
1c Identication with community 0.08** 0.06** 0.085** 0.13**
1c Identication with country 0.285** 0.01 0.15** 0.10**
1c Identication with all humanity 0.33** 0.03** 0.04** 0.155**
2a Preference for looseness versus tightness 0.20** 0.01 0.02 0.003
2a Preference for color diversity 0.03+0.04* 0.23** 0.05**
2b Preference for looseness versus tightness 0.12** 0.02 0.06* 0.03
2b Preference for circle versus triangle 0.07** 0.04 0.01 0.05+
3a Personal moral allocation to humans 0.34** 0.01 0.09 0.12
3a Ideal moral allocation to humans 0.28** 0.01 0.04 0.18*
3a Weighted personal moral circle 0.35** 0.03 0.07 0.11
3a Weighted ideal moral circle 0.26** 0.02 0.01 0.15+
3b Proportion moral allocation to humans 0.13* 0.15* 0.08 0.13*
3b Total moral allocation 0.055 0.03 0.01 0.09
3b Moral allocation to humans 0.056 0.03 0.01 0.09
3b Moral allocation to nonhumans 0.055 0.03 0.01 0.09
Notes: +p< 0.09; *p< 0.05; **p< 0.01. Effect of gender for moral allocation to humans (Study 3b) becomes marginally signicant (p=0.062) when including the one participant whose total allocation
falls outside of 3SD of the mean
5.0
Nationalism
Universalism
2.5
Rating
0.0
Very liberal
Slightly liberal
Slightly conservative
Very conservative
Conservative
Liberal
Moderate
Fig. 2 Endorsement of values by political ideology, Study 1b. Error bars represent standard errors, solid lines indicate means. Source data are provided as a
Source Data le
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to looseness in geometric structures, r(4426) =0.20, p< 0.001.
These results suggest, as predicted, conservatism relative to lib-
eralism corresponds to a preference for tighter structures even
when devoid of social relevance.
We also predicted, a priori, that liberals would show a pre-
ference for color diversity (i.e., the different colors represented by
the geometric structures) across stimuli, but found no signicant
correlation, r=0.01, p=0.35. This nding suggests that
ideology specically relates to preference for the movement pat-
terns of the structures, and not more broadly related to their
homogeneity or heterogeneity.
Separate multiple regressions in which preference for
looseness-tightness and preference for diversity of color were the
outcome variables, respectively, and political ideology, age, gen-
der, and education were predictor variables revealed that political
ideology continued to predict looseness-tightness preference sig-
nicantly. In addition, a multiple regression revealed that pre-
ference for diversity was in the predicted direction (associated
positively with liberal ideology), but the effect was tiny and only
of marginal signicance (p=0.078) (see Table 1). These analyses
suggest that political ideology meaningfully affects this basic
preference for geometric looseness-tightness, independent of
other related demographic variables.
Ideology could be linked to geometric preferences in ways
completely unrelated to the link between ideology and social
preferences. We therefore examined whether this basic preference
for geometric structure maps on to social judgments, testing
whether this preference helps account for the relationship
between political ideology and moral regard for tight versus loose
social structures examined in previous studies.
We tested this by capitalizing on a unique subset of partici-
pants whoin addition to completing this studyhad also
completed one of Studies 1a, 1b, and 1c. These participants
enabled us to examine the association between scores on the
present geometric shapes task and a social looseness-tightness
score reecting participantspreference for small social circles
(i.e., family and the nation) relative to larger social circles (i.e.,
friends and the world, respectively).
For each participant, we computed a social loosenesstightness
score by rst standardizing all measures in Studies 1a1c, and
then averaging scores for explicitly tightcircles and subtracting
this average from the average of scores for explicitly loosecir-
cles. In other words, we computed the average of standardized
scores for the love of family scale (Study 1a), the national security
subscale (Study 1b), and the identication with country subscale
(Study 1c) (tight measures), and computed the average of
standardized scores for the love of friends and love for all other
subscales (Study 1a), the universalism subscale (Study 1b), and
the identication of all humanity subscale (Study 1c) (loose
measures). We then subtracted the average of loose measures
from the average of tight measures as follows:
(average (love for friends
Study1a
, love for all others
Study1a
,
value of universalism
Study1b
,identication with all
humanity
Study1c
)) (average (love of family
Study1a
,valueof
national security
Study1b
,identication with country
Study1c
)).
To maximize statistical power, we included people who did not
have scores for all measures in the equation, although scores were
not computed for people who only had scores for the tight or
loose side of the equation, leaving 921 participants. In other
words, this score reected participantsmoral regard for friends
and global humanity relative to family and ones nation.
We then used bootstrapping mediation analysis using the SPSS
PROCESS macro21 (bias-corrected, 20,000 resamples) to examine
whether preference for geometric looseness-tightness mediates
the relationship between political ideology and social looseness-
tightness. This analysis conrmed partial mediation, in that
political ideology indirectly affected peoples preference for
social loosenesstightness through a preference for geometric
loosenesstightness (95% condence interval =0.02 to
0.0002).
Thus, at very least, the relationship between ideology and
preference for geometric loosenesstightness is related to pre-
ference for social loosenesstightness, and this more primitive
preference for loosenesstightness might drive people of different
political ideologies toward social circles of different expansive-
ness. Most important, this study demonstrates that the looseness-
tightness preference is not limited to circles with which people
have preexisting associations, and this perceptual preference is
linked to a preference for more well-dened tight versus loose
5
4
3
Identification with community
Identification with country
Identification with all humanity
Rating
2
1
Very liberal
Liberal
Slightly liberal
Slightly conservative
Conservative
Very conservative
Moderate
Fig. 3 Identication by political ideology, Study 1c. Error bars represent standard errors, solid lines indicate means. Source data are provided as a Source
Data le
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social circles. Study 2b provides a conceptual replication to
examine these effects further.
Study 2b is a conceptual replication of Study 2a that again
manipulated tightness versus looseness. Conservatism was asso-
ciated signicantly with preference for tightness relative to loos-
eness, r(2072) =0.15, p< 0.001. These results suggest that
again, as predicted, conservatism relative to liberalism corre-
sponds to an overall preference for tighter structures even when
these structures are devoid of social relevance.
As we presented geometric structures of different shapes, we
had also predicted that conservatives would prefer the shape of a
triangle more often than liberals, and liberals would prefer the
circle more often than conservatives (because it is the most
egalitarianshape, with no dot seeming more important than
any other). This prediction was conrmed, marginally: con-
servatives relative to liberals slightly preferred the triangle relative
to the circle, r(2072) =0.04, p=0.054.
Separate multiple regressions in which preference for
looseness-tightness and preference for circle were the outcome
variables, respectively, and political ideology, age, gender, and
education were predictor variables revealed that political ideology
predicted looseness-tightness preference and preference for shape
signicantly (see Table 1). These analyses again suggest that
political ideology meaningfully affects this basic preference for
geometric looseness-tightness, independent of other related
demographic variables.
Again, to examine the relationship between ideology, geometric
loosenesstightness preference, and social loosenesstightness
preference, we computed the same social loosenesstightness
score as in Study 2a and conducted the same mediation analysis
as in Study 2a. This analysis, with 679 participants, also con-
rmed partial mediationpolitical ideology indirectly affected
peoples preference for social loosenesstightness through a pre-
ference for geometric loosenesstightness (95% condence
interval =0.04 to 0.095). These ndings again suggest that the
relationship between ideology and geometric loosenesstightness
maps on to preferences for social loosenesstightness.
Building on Studies 12, showing that liberals and con-
servatives demonstrate universalism versus parochialism,
respectively, Study 3 tests whether this pattern extends to eva-
luations of nonhumans versus humans, testing the hypothesis
that liberals relative to conservatives will show more moral con-
cern toward nonhuman (relative to human) targets. Although
existing work shows ideologies associated with conservatism like
social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism
predict beliefs in human superiority over nonhuman animals and
positive attitudes toward animal exploitation22,23, the studies here
explicitly test the relationship between political ideology and
moral concern toward humans versus nonhumans.
We analyzed separately participantsideal and personal allo-
cations of moral regard (measured through pointsdescribed to
participants as moral units) to different social circles, some of
which were clearly human (e.g., family) and some of which were
nonhuman (e.g., plants and animals). Political conservatism
correlated with actual moral allocation to humans only, r(129) =
0.32, p< 0.001, and ideal moral allocation to humans only, r
(129) =0.26, p=0.003. Allocation to humans only is directly
inversely correlated with allocation to nonhumans, so correlations
of the same magnitude emerged in the opposite direction for
allocation to nonhumans.
As Fig. 4shows, the more liberal people were, the more they
allocated equally to humans and nonhumans. The further to the
right on the ideological spectrum people were, the more likely
they were to morally prioritize humans over nonhumans.
We also computed a weighted circle score for each participant
by multiplying the numerical rank of each category by the
allocation to that category and summing these values. That is, we
multiplied immediate familyby 1, extended familyby 2…“all
things in existenceby 16, and summed the valueslarger scores
indicated larger moral circles. The signicant correlation between
ideology and this weighted circle score (r(129) =0.33, p<
0.001; r(129) =0.24, p=0.005 for ideal allocation), again
demonstrates that as conservatism increases, the extent of the
moral circle decreases.
Separate multiple regressions using personal moral allocation
to humans, ideal moral allocation to humans, weighted personal
circle score, and weighted ideal circle score as outcome variables,
with political ideology, age, gender, and education as predictor
variables, revealed the same signicant effects for political ideol-
ogy in all cases (see Table 1). These analyses suggest that political
ideology meaningfully affects moral allocation independent of
related demographic variables.
Finally, we assessed the heatmaps generated by participants
clicks on the rung they felt best represented the extent of their
moral circle. These qualitative results also demonstrated that
liberals (individuals who selected 1, 2, or 3 on the ideology
measure) selected more outer rungs, whereas conservatives
(individuals who selected 5, 6, or 7 on the ideology measure)
selected more inner rungs (see Fig. 5). Overall, these results
suggest conservativesmoral circles are more likely to encompass
human beings, but not other animals or lifeforms whereas lib-
eralsmoral circles are more likely to include nonhumans (even
aliens and rocks) as well. Study 3a revealed these patterns also
when asking about participantsideal moral circles. This suggests
that both liberals and conservatives, although differing in their
moral allocations, feel that their pattern of allocation is the ideal
way to adjudicate moral concern in the world.
One caveat to Study 3a is that we constrained the number of
units that participants could assign to each group, forcing parti-
cipants to distribute moral concern in a zero-sum fashion (i.e., the
more concern they allocate to one circle, the less they can allocate
to another circle). Although research suggests that people indeed
do distribute empathy and moral concern in a zero-sum fash-
ion2426, this feature of Study 3a imposes an articial constraint.
Therefore, to examine whether a similar pattern would emerge
without this constraint, we conducted Study 3b to test whether
the effect would replicate using unlimited units.
Study 3b is a conceptual replication of Study 3a, allowing
participants unlimited moral units to distribute to various circles.
Conservatism was positively correlated with the human allocation
proportion score only, r(261) =0.14, p=0.025, and hence
negatively with the nonhuman allocation proportion score (for
means, see Fig. 6). A multiple regression using the human allo-
cation proportion score as an outcome variable with political
ideology, age, gender, and education as predictor variables
revealed the same signicant effect for political ideology (see
Table 1). Thus, even when participantsallocations were not
constrained, the same pattern replicated such that liberals dis-
tribute empathy toward broader circles and conservatives dis-
tribute empathy toward smaller circles.
Importantly, in addition to examining proportion, we also
examined total allocation, and allocation to humans and to
nonhumans. Liberals and conservatives did not differ such that
political ideology was not signicantly correlated with total allo-
cation to all targets, r(261) =0.04, p=0.51, total allocation to
humans, r(261) =0.04, p=0.50, or total allocation to nonhu-
mans, r(261) =0.04, p=0.51 (this pattern of the results was the
same when excluding the one participant whose allocations fell
outside of 3SD of the mean; see below). Separate multiple
regressions using these total allocation scores as outcome vari-
ables with political ideology, age, gender, and education as pre-
dictor variables revealed the same nonsignicant effects for
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political ideology (see Table 1). Again, these ndings demonstrate
that liberals and conservatives differ not in the total amount of
moral regard per se but rather they differ in their patterns of how
they distribute their moral regard.
Discussion
Seven studies demonstrated that liberals relative to conservatives
exhibit universalism relative to parochialism. This difference
manifested in conservatives exhibiting greater concern and pre-
ference for family relative to friends, the nation relative to the
world, tight relative to loose perceptual structures devoid of social
content, and humans relative to nonhumans.
Others have identied this universalistparochial distinction,
with Haidt27, for example, noting Liberalsare more uni-
versalisticConservatives, in contrast, are more parochial
concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity.The
present ndings comprehensively support this distinction
empirically, explicitly demonstrating the relationship between
ideology and universalism versus parochialism, assessing judg-
ments of multiple social circles, and providing converging evi-
dence across diverse measures.
15
Human
Nonhuman
10
Rating
5
0
Very liberal
Liberal
Slightly liberal
Slightly conservative
Conservative
Very conservative
Moderate
Fig. 4 Personal moral allocation to humans and nonhumans by political ideology, Study 3a. Error bars represent standard errors, solid lines indicate means.
Source data are provided as a Source Data le
Liberals
Conservatives
0120 20
Fig. 5 Heatmaps indicating highest moral allocation by ideology, Study 3a. Source data are provided as a Source Data le. Note. The highest value on the
heatmap scale is 20 units for liberals, and 12 units for conservatives. Moral circle rings, from inner to outer, are described as follows: (1) all of your
immediate family, (2) all of your extended family, (3) all of your closest friends, (4) all of your friends (including distant ones), (5) all of your
acquaintances, (6) all people you have ever met, (7) all people in your country, (8) all people on your continent, (9) all people on all continents, (10) all
mammals, (11) all amphibians, reptiles, mammals, sh, and birds, (12) all animals on earth including paramecia and amoebae, (13) all animals in the
universe, including alien lifeforms, (14) all living things in the universe including plants and trees, (15) all natural things in the universe including inert
entities such as rocks, (16) all things in existence
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The present research also leaves several open questions for
future examination. Given that we elicited responses from par-
ticipants rather than examining their spontaneous tendencies
toward parochialism or universalism, additional research can
assess whether these patterns of moral concern appear even when
unprompted. Research examining language use on Twitter sup-
ports the parochialism-universalism distinction established here,
demonstrating Republicans discuss topics more related to the
nation, whereas Democrats discuss topics more pertinent to
outside of the home nation28. An additional limitation of the
present research is that we imposed the distinction of universalist
versus parochial on particular circles, and participants might
construe these categorizations differently. For example, liberals
might construe their friends as more of an inner circle than their
family, even though in our operationalization, we treat friends as
a more universalist circle and family as a more parochial circle17.
We imposed distinctions based on objective standards of kinship
(family vs. friends) and nationality (nation vs. world), but dif-
ferent patterns of the results might emerge using different
parochialuniversalist comparisons between different circles (e.g.,
nation vs. friends).
A separate issue concerns causality. Although our research fol-
lows the predominant norms in political ideology research in
treating ideology at the independent variable, in some cases
ideology could also serve as the dependent variable. That is, moral
regard toward particular social circles could alter onespolitical
ideology over time as well. Rather than a dichotomous chicken-or-
egg question (does ideology cause differences in concern, or do
differences in concern cause ideology?), the relations between
ideology and ambit of concern are likely a complex interplay across
development involving interactions between genetic and environ-
mental factors29.Bothones ambit of concern and political ideology
are likely preceded by basic temperamental differences demon-
strated by research in developmental psychology30 and political
science31. Future work can delineate these causal pathways.
An additional question regarding causality concerns the rela-
tionship between low-level perceptual differences in looseness-
tightness that emerge in Studies 2a2b and differences in broader
social tendencies toward parochialism-universalism. Although
again we cannot fully establish causality, we believe these per-
ceptual preferences for tightness versus looseness reect basic
differences in information processing (desire for closure and
structure versus desire for openness), which in turn drive pre-
ferences for tighter versus looser social circles. In this way, our
work is similar to work showing that leftright ideological dif-
ferences manifest in basic information processing differences in
orientation toward appetitive versus aversive stimuli32 and
exploration versus non-exploration toward novel stimuli33 (even
when these stimuli are devoid of social meaning). Our work also
demonstrates specic perceptual differences (in Studies 2a2b)
and connects these more fundamental information processing
differences to social preferences, moral foundations, and moral
expansiveness broadly.
An additional direction for future research is to examine the
relationship between ambit of concern and ideology beyond a
simple liberalconservative distinction. Although we employ a
general measure of ideology and demonstrate that economic and
social ideology reveal the same patterns of the results, in some
circumstances social ideology might capture ambit of concern
better than economic ideology. Additional research can examine
the specically social component of ideology specically. We also
do not examine the relationship between ideology and ambit of
concern for libertarians, a group that exhibits low general
empathy, low universalism, but also low endorsement of the
binding moral foundations that typify conservative ideology34.
Additional research examining libertarians can better capture
moral concern beyond the simple liberalconservative dimension.
Finally, future research can address three issues pertaining to
generalizability. First, future work can address manifestations of
ideology at different time periods, as we cannot make overly
broad claims about ideology based on data from this one (par-
ticularly polarized) point in history.35 Nonetheless, we do believe
that the leftright distinction is quite robust throughout history
even as it takes different forms from generation to generation. As
Hibbing31 notes, John Stuart Mill called it commonplacefor
political systems to have “‘a party of order or stability and a party
of progress or reform’… The antagonism between two primal
mindsets certainly pervades human history: Sparta and Athens;
1.00
0.75
0.50 Humans
Nonhumans
Proportion
0.25
0.00
Very liberal
Liberal
Slightly liberal
Moderate
Slightly conservative
Conservative
Very conservative
Fig. 6 Proportion of moral allocation by ideology, Study 3b. Error bars represent standard errors, solid lines indicate means. Source data are provided as a
Source Data le
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optimates and populares; Roundheads and Cavaliers; Inquisition
and Enlightenment; Protagonus and Plato; Pope Urban VIII and
Galileo; Barry Goldwater and George McGovern; Sarah Palin
and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The labels liberalor leftistand
conservativeor rightistmay be relatively recent (etymologi-
cally they are typically assumed to date to the French Revolution,
but they appear to be much older.
The second issue pertaining to generalizability is sample
representativeness. The present research used participants
samples from platforms that were not necessarily representa-
tive and contained more political liberals than conservatives.
To bolster our ndings here that liberals relative to con-
servatives exhibit universalism relative to parochialism, we
examined nationally representative data from the United States
in the World Values Survey in a supplementary study (see
Supplementary Methods). This study again demonstrated
universalismparochialism differences that manifested in
conservatives (relative to liberals) exhibiting greater concern
and preference for family relative to friends, the nation relative
to the world, and humans relative to nonhumans. In addition,
this data contain participants from multiple time periods
from 1994 to 2014, suggestingand speaking to the point
raised in the previous paragraphthat the general patterns we
nd here are not specic to this singular moment in time.
The third issue concerns whether the ndings here extend
beyond the United States. The United States was the focus of
the present work, but we acknowledge that other countries
could show differing patterns. One possible reason is simply
semanticthat is, liberalmeans different things in different
countries, with the Liberal Partyof Australia, for example,
representing a centerright ideological position. In these stu-
dies, we address this issue by indicating for non-US partici-
pants in Studies 1a2bs instructions, that liberalrefers to
progressivesand the political left whereas conservatives
refers to traditionalistsand the political right. Non-US par-
ticipants in these studies, therefore, show the same pattern of
results as US participants (see Supplementary Note 5). On the
other hand, given differing historical trajectories and cultural
norms around conceptualizations of friends, family, the nation,
the world, humans, and nature these patterns may vary in
certain contexts.
As one initial test of this, we examined countries from
similar backgrounds as the United States including Canada,
Australia, and Western Europe and also examined Eastern
European countries, many of which have a history under a
Communist regime. Whereas the countries similar to the
United States showed the same pattern of results in terms of
universalism versus parochialism, more variance emerged in
the Eastern European countries (see Supplementary Table 1).
Rather than attempt to explain all regional differences, we urge
additional future research on cross-cultural comparisons. We
continue to predict that, because conservative and liberal
ideologies represent consistent sets of psychological differ-
ences36 in terms of motivational and cognitive processing
styles, any ideology corresponding to a more closed and
ordered mode of information processing will manifest in par-
ochialism whereas any ideology corresponding to a more open
and unstructured mode of information processing will man-
ifest in universalism.
While people across the ideological spectrum all likely
experience both centripetal and centrifugal forces in their ambits
of concern37, liberals are more likely to distribute concern to
outer circles and conservatives are more likely to distribute
concern to inner circles. This suggests that it is the differential
distribution of concern that contributes to and exacerbates moral
debates across the political divide.
Methods
All studies were institutional review board-approved by University of Southern
California and Northwestern University and participants provided informed con-
sent for each one.
Study 1a, participants. Three thousand three hundred sixty-four participants
(1791 male, M
age
=34.94, SD =13.64) completed the study on the YourMorals.org
website. At this website, participants rst registered by completing basic demo-
graphic information including gender (0 =female, 1 =male), age (coded as blank
if values > 95 to reduce fraudulent responses), and education (1 =some high
school, 2 =currently in high school, 3 =completed high school, 4 =some college
or university, 5 =currently in college, 6 =completed college or university, 7 =
some graduate/professional school, 8 =currently in graduate or professional
school, 9 =completed graduate or professional school; no answer =blank). In this
study and all others conducted on YourMorals.org, removing participants who also
completed one of the studies here or a study on YourMorals.org assessing a similar
construct did not change the primary pattern of results.
Participants also indicated their political ideology (very liberal =1, liberal =2,
slightly liberal =3, moderate =4, slightly conservative =5, conservative =6, very
conservative =7, and libertarian, do not know/not political, or other, the last three
of which were excluded from analyses in this and all other studies). This ideology
rating scale for YourMorals.org studies was also described to participants in a way
that it could translate to countries with different conceptualizations of liberal/
conservative:
(The terms used in your country may differ. Liberalis intended to
include the Left, progressives, and in some countries socialists. Con-
servativeis intended to include the Right, traditionalists, and in some
countries Christian Democrats.)
There were 2619 liberals, 347 moderates, and 398 conservatives. In this study
and all others conducted on YourMorals.org, some participants also separately
indicated their ideology on social issuesand on economic issuesusing the same
options for the general political ideology question. Where these data are available
from our participants, we also conduct primary analyses using measures of social
and economic ideology and report them in Supplementary Note 3. Also see
Supplementary Note 1 for more information on the samples obtained on
YourMorals.org.
Procedure. Participants completed the love of humanity scale38 that includes four
subscales (1 =completely disagree, 7 =completely agree): romantic love (e.g., My
romantic partner and I are drawn to each other), love for friends (e.g., My friends
and I look out for each other), love for family (e.g., My siblings and I love each
other warts and all”—we dont censor ourselves around each other), and love for
all others (there are times in my life when Ive felt strong feelings of love for all
people, not just the specic people Im close to). Although all participants received
all items, not all participants produced scores for every subscale (failing to answer
any items pertaining to a specic subscale). Participants were included if they
produced scores for at least one of these subscales, but not the others, resulting
sometimes in slightly different degrees of freedom across subscales. This same
specication applies to Studies 1b and 1c, which also contain subscales.
Study 1b, participants. Thirteen thousand one hundred fty-six participants
(7113 male, M
age
=36.72 SD =14.47) completed the study on the YourMorals.org
website. During registration participants completed the same ideology, age, gender,
and education measures described in Study 1a and in this sample consisted of 9625
liberals, 1684 moderates, and 1847 conservatives.
Procedure. Participants completed the Schwartz Values Inventory39, which
assesses various values that act as guiding principles for ones life. Of importance
were two measures in particular, one assessing values oriented toward the world as
a wholea set of items examining universalism, the concept of peace and equality
for all (e.g., A WORLD AT PEACEfree of war and conict)and one item
assessing nationalism (NATIONAL SECURITY (protection of my nation from
enemies). Participants answered how important 58 value items were for their lives,
and used a scale ranging from 1 (opposed to the value) to 0 (not at all important)
to 7 (of supreme importance).
Study 1c, participants. Fourteen thousand one hundred seventy-eight participants
(8295 male, M
age
=36.70 SD =14.05) completed the study on the YourMorals.org
website. During registration participants completed the same ideology measure
described in Study 1a and in this sample consisted of 10,674 liberals, 1534 mod-
erates, and 1970 conservatives.
Procedure. Participants completed the Identication With All Humanity Scale40
that asks how much people identify with their community, their country, and the
world as a whole (e.g., How much do you identify with (that is, feel a part of, feel
love toward, have concern for) each of the following?People in my community,
people in my country, all humans everywhere). Participants used a 5-point scale
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(1 =not at all, 5 =very much) to answer nine questions for each of these entities
community, country, and all humansthat assessed identication with each one.
We predicted that conservatism would predict identication with country, while
liberalism would predict identication with all humanity. We had no hypothesis
about identication with community.
Study 2a, participants. Four thousand four hundred and twenty-eight partici-
pants (2269 male, M
age
=36.56 SD =14.39) completed the study on the Your-
Morals.org website. Removing participants from analyses for which they were not
required (see below) did not change the primary pattern of the results. During
registration participants completed same ideology, age, gender, and education
measures described in Study 1a and this sample consisted of 3136 liberals, 592
moderates, and 700 conservatives.
Procedure. Participants began the task by reading the following instructions:
This is a study about pattern perception. On each of the next 30 screens,
you are going to see two boxes. (Do not worry, each screen takes just a few
seconds). In each box you will see some dots moving around. After 3 s,
three buttons will appear. Please click on the appropriate button to indicate
which box you like better. The buttons will disappear 5 s later, so you will
have to make your judgments within that 5 s period.
That may seem like an odd judgment to make, but if you just relax and let
yourself look back and forth between the two boxes, you will nd yourself
having some slight feelings in response. You will nd yourself liking one
box or the other a bit more. Do not think too much about the task, just go
with your feelings.
Next, they proceeded to evaluate 30 screens, in which two animations were
presented side by side (to view task access: http://yourmorals.org/dotspref_task.
php; see Supplementary Fig. 1 for depiction of task). Each animation consisted of
six dots that varied on two dimensions: (1) color diversityall six dots were of the
same color (nondiverse) or of all different colors (diverse); (2) looseness-tightness
the six dots either remained xed as a single shape, a triangle (tight), moved
individually, but retained the general shape of a triangle (mobile), or orbited
around each other freely (loose). Animations were divided evenly into diverse and
nondiverse color patterns as well as tight or loose movement patterns, and were
randomly presented next to each other. After three seconds of the animation,
participants were asked to select one of three options: I prefer this one(presented
twiceonce under each animation) or an option that said, I have no preference at
all.If participants did not select an option within 5 s, text appeared informing
participants they were too slow and asking them to try to click a button within 5 s
the next time. After the presentation of these 30 screens, participants answered a
question about how hard the task was and an open-ended question on what they
thought the purpose of the task was.
For each participant, preference for color diversity was computed by subtracting
the percentage preference for the nondiverse pattern from the percentage
preference for the diverse pattern. Preference for looseness was computed by
subtracting the percentage preference for the tight pattern from the combined
percentage preference for the loose and mobile patterns.
Animations such as these are often spontaneously anthropomorphized41,42, and
thus can be used as proxies for peoples perceptions of social ensembles.
Furthermore, this method is in line with recent work that has used basic schematics
and shapes to map low-level perceptual tendencies to meaningful political
ideological differences43,44.
Originally, this study was designed for a different purpose, to study the
relationship between political ideology and peoples feelings about superorganisms
(emergent social entities), with the prediction that liberals would prefer more
disordered ensembles, whereas conservatives would prefer more ordered
ensembles. This study also compared displays of heterogeneously colored versus
homogeneously colored ensembles, with the prediction that liberals would prefer
more diversely colored ensembles and conservatives would prefer uniformly
colored ensembles. Upon reexamining the study, we realized that it was relevant for
our purpose to test our hypotheses about ideological differences in preference for
moral circles of different types.
Study 2b, participants. Two thousand and seventy-four participants (997 male,
M
age
=34.87SD =13.96) completed the study on the YourMorals.org website.
Removing participants from analyses for which they were not required (see below)
did not change the primary pattern of results. During registration participants
completed the same ideology, age, gender, and education measures described in
Study 1a and in this sample consisted of 1468 liberals, 270 moderates, and 336
conservatives.
Procedure. The task participants perform was largely the same as in Study 2a
with a few notable exceptions (to view task access: http://yourmorals.org/
dotspref2_task.php; see Supplementary Fig. 2 for depiction of task): (1) Parti-
cipants viewed 12 screens rather than 30. (2) Diversity in color was not
manipulated (all the dots were the same color), but shape of the structure was
10 dots (rather than six in Study 2a) comprised the general shape of a triangle or
circle (3). Looseness-tightness was manipulated on two, rather than three levels
thedotseitherremainedxed as a single shape, a triangle or circle (tight),
or moved individually, but retained the general shape of a triangle or circle
(loose). Animations were divided evenly into circle and triangle shapes as well
as tight or loose movement patterns, and were randomly presented next to
each other.
For each participant, preference for shape was computed by subtracting the
percentage preference for the triangle shape from the percentage preference for the
circle shape. Preference for looseness was computed by subtracting the percentage
preference for the tight pattern from the percentage preference for the loose
pattern.
Like Study 2a, this study was initially designed to test the prediction that liberals
would prefer more disordered ensembles, whereas conservatives would prefer more
ordered ensembles. The prediction regarding shape was that liberals relative to
conservatives would prefer circles over triangles, manifesting a preference for
egalitarianism over hierarchy. As with Study 2a, upon reexamining this study, we
realized that it was relevant for our present hypotheses.
Study 3a, participants. One hundred thirty-one United States residents (53 male,
M
age
=35.82, SD =13.76) were recruited from the Amazon Mechanical Turk
(MTurk) marketplace for a small monetary reward. Although this sample size was
simply chosen on the basis of similar past studies, a post hoc power analysis
indicated that we had sufcient power (> 0.79) to detect the smallest correlation (in
absolute value) found in our analyses below (r=0.24). Participants completed
the study using Qualtrics software, including an ideology measure that contained
seven options (very liberal, liberal, slightly liberal, moderate, slightly conservative,
conservative, very conservative). Participants were also asked about demographics
including age and gender (coded as in Study 1a) and education, which participants
were asked to enter in terms of years, with high school completion signifying 12.
For participants who entered a nonnumerical response, we translated their
response to a number using our best judgment (e.g., some collegewas translated
to 14 years). Our sample included 64 liberals, 31 moderates, and 36 conservatives,
and participants were only included in analyses if they completed the study in full.
Sample size was determined based on attempts to maximize statistical power and
was conned to participants who completed the study while it was available on the
MTurk marketplace.
Procedure. All participants completed a moral allocation task, in which partici-
pants allocated 100 moral unitsamong the following 16 categories, pictured as
increasingly large concentric circles (see full depiction of task in Supplementary
Note 4): all of your immediate family; all of your extended family; all of your closest
friends; all friends including more distant friends; all acquaintances; all people
you have ever met; all people in your country; all people on your continent;
all people on all continents; all mammals on all continents; all
amphibians, reptiles, mammals, sh, and birds; all animals on earth including
paramecia and amoebae; all animals in the universe, including alien lifeforms; all
living things in the universe including plants and trees; all natural things in the
universe including inert entities such as rocks; all things in existence. Participants
read the following instructions:
In this section, we would like to think about your capacity to help, to give,
to be charitable, to show empathy, and to be generousin other words,
your capacity to behave morally. We can think about people having
different amounts of moral unitslike currencythat they can spend on
others and can allocate to different moral circles. Some people devote all of
their moral units to one circle whereas others try to divide up their moral
units amongst multiple circles. Again, by moral circle, we mean the circle of
people or other entities in which you are concerned about right and wrong
done toward them.
We also explained to participants that these categories were non-overlapping
such that giving to one category (e.g., extended family) would not include an
inclusive category (e.g., immediate family). Participants completed two iterations of
this task (order randomized). In one, they were asked to allocate moral units how
one should ideally divide them. In the other, they were asked to divide them as they
personally do so in their daily lives. These allowed us to assess differences between
actual and ideal moral allocation, but no meaningful differences emerged. The
categories allowed us to create composite moral allocation scores for humans only
(average of units allocated to the rst nine categories) and for nonhumans (average
of units allocated to the last seven categories). In addition, participants also
completed a more qualitative measure of the extent of their moral circle by clicking
on rungs extending outward and representing the same categories as in the moral
allocation task (see Supplementary Note 4). This measure allowed us to create
heatmaps to visualize the relative sizes of liberalsand conservativesmoral circles.
This task was also counterbalanced in presentation with the moral allocation task,
and no order effects emerged.
Study 3b, participants. Two hundred sixty-three United States residents (173
male, M
age
=28.02, SD =9.13) were recruited from the Amazon Mechanical Turk
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(MTurk) marketplace for a small monetary reward and completed the study using
Qualtrics software, including the same ideology, age, gender, and education mea-
sures used in Study 3a. Our sample included 176 liberals, 45 moderates, and 42
conservatives, and participants were only included in analyses if they completed the
study in full. Sample size was determined by attempting to double the sample size
of Study 3a, to ensure sufcient power.
Procedure. Participants completed the same personal moral allocation task as in
Study 3a, with one alteration. Participants were told that they could allocate any
amount to any group, and any amount overall. Participants varied greatly in
their total allocation of units to all categories, from 10 to 1053. Although we made
an a priori decision not to exclude outliers, all results described below remain
the same when excluding the one participant whose allocations fall outside of 3SD
of the mean. (We included this participant in analyses because our primary ana-
lyses involve proportions, which are constrained between 0 and 1 for all
participants.).
To analyze moral allocation to humans versus nonhumans, we computed a
proportion score for humans and nonhumans separately. To compute the human
allocation proportion score, we summed for each participant the nine categories
pertaining to humans exclusively and divided by the total units allocated to all
categories. To compute the nonhuman allocation proportion score, we summed for
each participant the seven categories pertaining to nonhumans and divided by the
total units allocated to all categories.
Reporting summary. Further information on research design is available in
the Nature Research Reporting Summary linked to this article.
Data availability
The datasets generated during and analyzed during this study are available from the
corresponding author on reasonable request. A reporting summary for this Article is
available as a Supplementary Information le.
Received: 8 October 2018 Accepted: 22 August 2019
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Author contributions
A.W., R.I., L.Y., J.H. and J.G.: all contributed to idea generation, methods, analysis, and
writing.
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... Research to date has provided important insights that advance our understanding of moral circles. However, this work has focused on individual-level factors (Crimston et al., 2016(Crimston et al., , 2018bWaytz et al., 2019), or factors that have changed across human history such as a growing capacity for reason and other enlightenment values (Pinker, 2011). To our knowledge, little to no research has analyzed the current societal factors that may relate to differences in the expansion of our moral world. ...
... First, we included several individual-level measures. Liberals and conservatives tend to differ in their expansion of moral concern (Waytz et al., 2019), and liberals perceive greater levels of inequality compared with conservatives (Norton & Ariely, 2011). To control for this, we included economic and social conservatism as control variables. ...
... Relative to males, females typically exhibit greater moral concern for more entities (Waytz et al., 2019) and males also tend to perceive greater levels of inequality compared with females (Norton & Ariely, 2011). To account for this, gender was measured as (1) male or (2) female. ...
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What are the things that we think matter morally, and how do societal factors influence this? To date, research has explored several individual-level and historical factors that influence the size of our ‘moral circles’. There has, however, been less attention focused on which societal factors play a role. We present the first multi-national exploration of moral expansiveness – that is the size of people’s moral circles across countries. We found low generalized trust, greater perceptions of a breakdown in the social fabric of society, and greater perceived economic inequality were associated with smaller moral circles. Generalized trust also helped explain the effects of perceived inequality on lower levels of moral inclusiveness. Other inequality indicators (i.e., Gini coefficients) were, however, unrelated to moral expansiveness. These findings suggest societal factors, especially those associated with generalized trust, may influence the size of our moral circles.
... Although this is a simplification, this distinction has been predictive of various attitudes (Jost, 2017), media consumption (Rodriguez, Moskowitz, Salem, & Ditto, 2017;Wojcieszak & Rojas, 2011), patterns of thinking (Lakoff, 2002) and even brain structure (Genon, Eickhoff, & Kharabian, 2022;Kanai, Feilden, Firth, & Rees, 2011). Recent works have suggested that ideological orientations are related to different human needs and motivations concerning the management of threat and uncertainty (Stewart, Gulzaib, & Morris, 2019) and are related to basic moral foundations (Haidt, 2013;Waytz, Iyer, Young, Haidt, & Graham, 2019). Conservatives are generally more resistant to social change, and are more accepting of authority and hierarchical structures; liberals favor fairness as equality, universalism and harm-reduction (Azevedo, Jost, Rothmund, & Sterling, 2019;Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009;Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003;Waytz et al., 2019). ...
... Recent works have suggested that ideological orientations are related to different human needs and motivations concerning the management of threat and uncertainty (Stewart, Gulzaib, & Morris, 2019) and are related to basic moral foundations (Haidt, 2013;Waytz, Iyer, Young, Haidt, & Graham, 2019). Conservatives are generally more resistant to social change, and are more accepting of authority and hierarchical structures; liberals favor fairness as equality, universalism and harm-reduction (Azevedo, Jost, Rothmund, & Sterling, 2019;Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009;Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003;Waytz et al., 2019). ...
... For example, the Department of Labor (DOL), the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the EPA are consistently placed as left-wing (Richardson et al., 2017), potentially because these activities are associated with fairness and reducing harm (e.g. avoiding hurting others; equitable access to the environment), major liberal principles (Graham, Haidt and Nosek, 2009;Waytz, Iyer, Young, Haidt and Graham, 2019). Agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are placed as right-wing, potentially because they are related to conservative principles of loyalty to nation and respect for authority (Haidt, 2013;Waytz, Iyer, Young, Haidt and Graham, 2019). ...
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Government agencies are directed to communicate objective and scientific information to the public, but studies show that political ideology may play a role in how much information governments provide. In this paper I argue that the ideology of a head administrator, and its alignment with agency mission, can restrict the kinds of information that government agencies provide, which may or may not amount to a type of regulatory capture. This impact may also be moderated by the specific media in which the communication takes place. I explore this theory via a case study of the United States Environmental Protection Agency online communication over a period of 32 months, during the years of 2013–2014, under the Democratic Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 2017–2018, under the Republican Administrator Scott Pruitt, via topical terms and document analyses of Twitter posts and web news releases. The information—topics, policies and issues—remain largely consistent across administrations and media channels, but notable distinctions are observed that point to the political ideologies of administrators in office, including a restriction of relevant scientific information on climate change during the misaligned administrator. Moreover, results show differences across media types which may reflect speed and popularity affordances of Twitter compared to website communication. I conclude by discussing the importance of policies to protect against ideological partisanship, and how social media may be better used as tools in government information policy and online communication.
... Other batteries of assessment should be administered among these altruistic populations to gain further insight into the characteristics related to extraordinary altruism, such as paradigms that map onto different types of prosocial decision-making according to divergent task and neural features 82 . These might include other economic games, those that examine moral decision-making 65,83 , or those that investigate moral inferences about others 84 . ...
Preprint
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... In general, people's social and political attitudes are based on their moral concerns (e.g., Aramovich, Lytle, & Skitka, 2012;Waytz, Iyer, Young, Haidt, & Graham, 2019). Research shows how morality is associated with political attitudes, voting, and collective action. ...
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... Any intervention tailored to political orientation, however, should consider ideological differences in motivated reasoning, as it may be necessary, for instance, to leverage moral values [34] underpinning conservative ideology (e.g., purity, loyalty), which might otherwise be at odds with following public health directives [35]. Relatedly, calls for compassion and empathy among more conservative-leaning individuals should be compatible with the ways in which individuals with such beliefs may express prosocial concerns, such as by focusing more on protecting small businesses during the pandemic [13], or more generally, by having more empathy for specific and known individuals (e.g., family members, friends) compared to strangers, or humanity [48]. Interventions could also consider seeking to increase empathy toward members of an outgroup, whether based on political ideology or other factors [49], however such approaches should avoid making political ideology salient (e.g., highlighting polarized responses to in ways that could inadvertently encourage tribalism. ...
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... The moral circle scale (Waytz et al., 2019) assesses the moral expansiveness across 16 different entities (human and non-human) deemed worthy of moral concern. Participants indicated the extent of their moral circle, i.e., the circle for which they are concerned about right and wrong done towards them, ranging from immediate family to all things in existence. ...
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Останній рік психологам установ виконання покарань та слідчих ізоляторів приходиться працювати в умовах військового стану. Незважаючи на те, що зараз в Україні немає небезпечних місць, ми можемо розподілити пенітенціарні установи на ті, що перебувають «у тилу», і ті, що розташовані недалеко від зон бойових дій. У зв'язку з цим на психологів покладаються не стільки нові, додаткові обов’язки, скільки переусвідомлення та наповнення новим змістом форм і методів роботи з особами, які відбувають покарання в місцях позбавлення волі. Якщо говорити про періодизацію функціонування та розвитку психологічної служби в установах виконання покарань і слідчих ізоляторах, то з 2014 року ми увійшли у четвертий період - період відкриття нових випробування війною. На нашу думку, він характеризується: - набуттям психологами практичного досвіду роботи з засудженими в умовах військового стану та бойових дій; - організацією та наданням первинної медико-психологічної допомоги засудженим, особовому складу та місцевим мешканцям; - організацією та проведенням психологічної роботи з різними категоріями засуджених в умовах бомбосховищ; - відпрацюванням механізмів і налагодженням соціальних зв'язків засуджених із родичами та сім'ями; - переведенням співпраці з суспільними / громадськими організаціями у площину організації та проведення індивідуальної роботи з засудженими, надання їм практичної допомоги; - психологічним супроводженням і контролем за усіма заходами, що організовувалися та проводилися іншими відділами та службами з засудженими; - введенням переговорної діяльності з різними представниками військових формувань і засудженими під час випадків масової непокори вимогам адміністрації; - збільшенням часу на практичну психологічну діяльність. Дана характеристика не тільки вказує на певні особливості цього періоду, але й вказує в яких напрямах повинен просуватися пенітенціарний психолог у своїй професійній діяльності.
Chapter
Sharing in the experiences of others often feels like a natural inclination, yet several groups have converged on the idea that empathy reflects motivated choices. Although sometimes criticized for being unreliable, many studies suggest that empathy depends on motivated emotion regulation: people appraise the costs and benefits of empathizing, and then regulate empathy based on their evaluations of its anticipated outcomes. In the current review, we begin by highlighting the importance of the motivated empathy question from a psychological and ethical perspective, and how early empathy avoidance experiments set the stage for the recent resurgence of interest in the topic. We discuss how experimental approaches to testing motivated empathy can provide alternative explanations of empathy failures such as compassion collapse and fatigue—turning a question of whether we can empathize with mass suffering into one of whether we will empathize. We furthermore highlight our free-choice approach to understanding empathic propensity that draws upon cognitive science and economics—the empathy selection task—and then outline four categories of extensions with this approach, including testing motivational interventions, extending to other social emotional processes (e.g., compassion, moral outrage), testing group differences in empathy, and understanding empathy choice strategies. Treating empathy as a choice opens new perspectives for evaluating the possibilities of understanding other minds.
Article
Parochial altruism refers to the propensity to direct prosocial behavior toward members of one's own ingroup to a greater extent than toward those outside one's group. Both theory and empirical research suggest that parochialism may be linked to political ideology, with conservatives more likely than liberals to exhibit ingroup bias in altruistic behavior. The present study, conducted in the United States and Italy, tested this relationship in the context of the COVID‐19 pandemic, assessing willingness to contribute money to charities at different levels of inclusiveness—local versus national versus international. Results indicated that conservatives contributed less money overall and were more likely to limit their contribution to the local charity while liberals were significantly more likely to contribute to national and international charities, exhibiting less parochialism. Conservatives and liberals also differed in social identification and trust, with conservatives higher in social identity and trust at the local and national levels and liberals higher in global social identity and trust in global others. Differences in global social identity partially accounted for the effects of political ideology on donations.
Article
Full-text available
What are the things that we think matter morally, and how do societal factors influence this? To date, research has explored several individual-level and historical factors that influence the size of our ‘moral circles.' There has, however, been less attention focused on which societal factors play a role. We present the first multi-national exploration of moral expansiveness—that is, the size of people’s moral circles across countries. We found low generalized trust, greater perceptions of a breakdown in the social fabric of society, and greater perceived economic inequality were associated with smaller moral circles. Generalized trust also helped explain the effects of perceived inequality on lower levels of moral inclusiveness. Other inequality indicators (i.e., Gini coefficients) were, however, unrelated to moral expansiveness. These findings suggest that societal factors, especially those associated with generalized trust, may influence the size of our moral circles.
Article
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Presents an analysis of theory and research in social psychology which reveals that while methods of research are scientific in character, theories of social behavior are primarily reflections of contemporary history. The dissemination of psychological knowledge modifies the patterns of behavior upon which the knowledge is based. This modification occurs because of the prescriptive bias of psychological theorizing, the liberating effects of knowledge, and the resistance based on common values of freedom and individuality. In addition, theoretical premises are based primarily on acquired dispositions. As the culture changes, such dispositions are altered, and the premises are often invalidated. Several modifications in the scope and methods of social psychology are derived from this analysis. (53 ref.) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
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Debate surrounding the issue of inequality and hierarchy between social groups has become increasingly prominent in recent years. At the same time, individuals disagree about the extent to which inequality between advantaged and disadvantaged groups exists. Whereas prior work has examined the ways in which individuals legitimize (or delegitimize) inequality as a function of their motivations, we consider whether individuals’ orientation towards group-based hierarchy motivates the extent to which they perceive inequality between social groups in the first place. Across 8 studies in both real- world (race, gender, and class) and artificial contexts, and involving members of both advantaged and disadvantaged groups, we show that the more individuals endorse hierarchy between groups, the less they perceive inequality between groups at the top and groups at the bottom. Perceiving less inequality is associated with rejecting egalitarian social policies aimed at reducing it. We show that these differences in hierarchy perception as a function of individuals’ motivational orientation hold even when inequality is depicted abstractly using images, and even when individuals are financially incentivized to accurately report their true perceptions. Using a novel methodology to assess accurate memory of hierarchy, we find that differences may be driven by both anti-egalitarians underestimating inequality, and egalitarians overestimating it. In sum, our results identify a novel perceptual bias rooted in individuals’ chronic motivations towards hierarchy-maintenance, with the potential to influence their policy attitudes.
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Left and right are viewed as social constructs that serve to orient and to bind people to political choices over the last two centuries mostly within established Western liberal democracies. Their contents and functions, however, have not been invariant across polities but were largely shaped in accordance with the distinctive characteristics of societies and of political systems in which they operated. Thus, one can't avoid addressing left and right under an historical perspective to make sense of their different expressions and to better appreciate their functions. Recent findings have shown that individual differences in personality traits, basic values, and core political values account for a significant portion of preference for left and right across several polities. It has been argued that affinities between individual differences in personality and political preferences have developed over time under conditions of choice in which people's dispositions and value priorities could meet contingent political offers. Time and opportunities of free choice made possible the establishment of distinctive ideological identities that ultimately find their roots in people's personalities. Novel findings document the function that left and right still can play in predicting political preference and in summarizing political attitudes as stable social postures that account for the encounter of personality and politics.
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The idea of the moral circle pictures the self in the center, surrounded by concentric circles encompassing increasingly distant possible targets of moral concern, including family, local community, nation, all humans, all mammals, all living things including plants, and all things including inanimate objects. The authors develop the idea of two opposing forces in people's moral circles, with centripetal forces pulling inward, urging greater concern for close others than for distant others, and centrifugal forces pushing outward, resisting "drawing the line" anywhere as a form of prejudice and urging egalitarian concern for all regardless of social distance. Review of the developmental literature shows very early emergence of both moral forces, suggesting at least partly intuitive bases for each. Moral education approaches favoring one force over the other are compared, to show how these forces can provide constraints on moral learning. Finally, the centripetal/centrifugal forces view is applied to current moral debates about empathy and about politics. The authors argue that this view helps us see how intercultural and interpersonal disagreements about morality are based in intrapersonal conflicts shared by all people.
Book
This new and up-to-date edition of a book that has been central to political philosophy, history, and revolutionary thought for two hundred years offers readers a dire warning of the consequences that follow the mismanagement of change. Written for a generation presented with challenges of terrible proportions-the Industrial, American, and French Revolutions, to name the most obvious-Burke's Reflections of the Revolution in France displays an acute awareness of how high political stakes can be, as well as a keen ability to set contemporary problems within a wider context of political theory.