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What Are the Irreducible Basic Elements of Morality? A Critique of the Debate Over Monism and Pluralism in Moral Psychology

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The debate between monists and pluralists in moral psychology has been framed as an argument over the number of “irreducible basic elements” that can be used to describe the extent of the moral domain: Do all moral values ultimately reduce to one principle (i.e., monism), or are there multiple irreducibly distinct moral values (i.e., pluralism)? I critique the premise of this debate, arguing that the breadth of the moral domain cannot be adequately represented, understood, or explained in terms of moral values. Instead, an adequate account of moral psychology must explain moral phenomena in terms of more basic elements: ontological frames.

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... Capitalizing on the revisionist potential of the ontological turn as exemplified by Richard Shweder's (1992) work, Beal (2020) claims that the goal of psychology is not simply to predict the outcome but rather to understand the interpretative framework behind the outcome. More specifically, he argues that in order to get at people's interpretive framework, "the surest way is not to interrogate people's values but to look instead at their ontologies" (p. ...
... These two elements-the ecological niches of ST versus WT, and their corresponding rationalities-come together in a third, ontological, dimension, opened up by Beal's (2020) notion of ontological framing. How we relate to entities or persons in the world are ontological frames, because it is through this particular relationship that we perceive the world in certain ways. ...
... This dense summary of Shweder can be unpacked with Beal's (2020) proposal of a hierarchical organization of moral cognition: The ontological framing (a), such as "widow," constitutes the basis for the content of the frame (b) that is articulated as the evaluative, interpretative narratives of moral reasoning, such as "it is a sin to eat fish," which in turn gives rise to unique sensitivity or personal attachment to abstract values (c) such as loyalty or liberty. As exemplary of the ontological turn, Shweder's approach stands in sharp contrast to the conventional approach in psychology. ...
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Strong Ties and Weak Ties Rationality Scale (STWTRS) is a theory-driven questionnaire designed to capture cultural differences in reasoning about the world. It is intended to demonstrate empirically the heuristic value of the ontological turn that shifts the focus of cultural analysis from the down-stream values, beliefs, and behaviors to the upstream process of thinking and reasoning that is rooted in the local ways of being. This paper will present theory development, preliminary results, and potential contributions of this scale toward better understanding of the culturally different other.
... In psychology, the ontological turn signifies a shift in cultural analysis from disconnected, fragmentary lists of attributes to a holistic approach that situates thinking and reasoning in local ways of being and relating to the world. This paradigm shift was advocated by Shweder (1992) and has been recently reiterated by Beal (2020). Taking the ontological turn one step further, we ground our methodology on Maturana and Varela's theory of autopoietic systems to conduct an empirical investigation of the ontological universes of cultural insiders. ...
... With Shweder (1992), we believe that to investigate the cultural insider's ontological universe, it is imperative to use holistic, rather than analytic, approaches. In this respect, a promising candidate, according to Beal (2020), is ontological framing/category. In response to Beal's call for a shift of focus in measurement from outcome (what one believes) to process (how one thinks), we capitalized on the thinking process behind ontological framing by developing a scale of strong ties and weak ties rationalities (i.e., STWTRS) and by defining rationality in terms of reasoning and thinking rather than Reason. ...
Article
We developed the Strong Ties Weak Ties Rationality Scale (STWTRS) to demonstrate the heuristic value of the ontological turn which attempts to do justice to the cultural insider’s picture of what is real. To test empirically the hypothesis of the existence of two distinct ontological universes that fall along the divide between strong ties and weak ties ontological framings, we used STWTRS to conduct a cross-cultural study (n = 961) using four samples (i.e., Taiwanese, Yi Chinese, Asian American, and non-Asian American). The results support our claim that the ontological universe of the cultural insider is not a list of fragmentary, ever expanding list of attributes that proliferate in cross-cultural psychology, so much as a coherent wholeness. We argue that this concept is best articulated by Maturana and Varela’s (1980) theory of autopoietic living systems. Potential contributions to the literature and future research directions are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)
... These "harmless wrongs", thus, are often deemed as critical blind spots of cooperationbased theories of morality, which regard morality as a cognitive adaptation to the challenges of cooperation recurrent in human social life (Alexander, 1987;Baumard et al., 2013;Curry, 2016;Stanford, 2018;Tomasello, 2016). Explaining the full breadth of the moral domain, researchers argue, requires (i) recognizing that "there is more to morality than harm and fairness" (Haidt, 2012), and (ii) adopting "pluralist" theories of the moral mind that make room for mechanisms generating moral intuitions without functioning for cooperation (Graham et al., 2013;Haidt, 2012;Haidt & Joseph, 2007; see also Beal, 2020). ...
... Is morality about more than harm and fairness? (Baumard et al., 2013b;Beal, 2020;Curry, Jones Chesters, et al., 2019;Curry, Mullins, et al., 2019;Goodwin, 2017;Graham et al., 2013;Greene, 2015;Piazza et al., 2019;Schein & Gray, 2018). Condemnations of purity violations (e.g., gluttony, lustful sexuality, intoxicants) have widely appeared as a critical argument in those debates. ...
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Why do some people moralize overindulgence in inherently victimless bodily pleasures, such as gluttony, masturbation, drinking, or laziness, when these behaviors appear devoid of any harmful consequences to other people? We test the hypothesis that these moral judgements stem from perceptions that overindulgence alters people’s self-control, thus making them more likely to cheat in cooperative interactions. In an online experiment on 400 American adults, participants judged that a target who was caused to increase his indulgence in bodily pleasures would reduce his self-control and disposition to cooperate. Participants judged, by contrast, that sustained restraint from bodily pleasures over several months would improve a target’s self-control and disposition to cooperate. The effect of indulgence (vs. restraint) on perceived change in cooperativeness was fully mediated by perceived change in self-control. This supports the idea that bodily pleasures are perceived as increasing people’s propensity to cheat because they are perceived as reducing their self-control, which is perceived necessary for cooperative behavior. Finally, the more people perceived indulgence as reducing self-control and cooperativeness, the more they regarded indulgence in victimless bodily pleasures as morally wrong (e.g., masturbation, gluttony, harmless drinking and laziness). These results provide preliminary support for the Moral disciplining theory of puritanism, according to which, although inherently harmless, bodily pleasures are condemned as indirectly facilitating antisocial behaviors through their perceived effect on self-control.
... Although human ("Earthling") morality is not determined by color perception, we argue in this article that moral judgment on Earth is determined by a perceptual mode-"ontological framing" (see Beal, 2020)-that is functionally analogous to Xling color perception. Ontological framing is just as determinative of Earthling moral judgment, and it is subject to an analogous paradox that might be called "framing realism": Perceived framing and its moral implications are implicitly understood by Earthlings to be universal, timeless, and context-independent; however, object-framing varies among Earthlings and even within individuals over time. ...
... Contemporary theories of moral cognition, such as Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) and the Theory of Dyadic Morality (TDM), propose that moral judgment involves a subject judging whether an action violates a principle of fairness, loyalty, authority, non-harm, etc. However, Beal (2020) points out that the meaning of these abstract principles is necessarily defined in terms of concrete "framing" of moral relationships. For instance, an action is not "disloyal" in abstraction, but only comes to fit this description under very specific conditions. ...
Article
We describe moral cognition as a process occurring in a distinctive cognitive space, wherein moral relationships are defined along several morally relevant dimensions. After identifying candidate dimensions, we show how moral judgments can emerge in this space directly from object perception, without any appeal to moral rules or abstract values. Our reductive “minimal model” (Batterman & Rice, 2014) elaborates Beal’s (2020) claim that moral cognition is determined, at the most basic level, by “ontological frames” defining subjects, objects, and the proper relation between them. We expand this claim into a set of formal hypotheses that predict moral judgments based on how objects are “framed” in the relevant dimensions of “moral space.”
... With Shweder (1992), we believe that to investigate the cultural insider's ontological universe, it is imperative to use holistic, rather than analytic, approaches. In this respect, a promising candidate, according to Beal (2020), is ontological framing/category. In response to Beal's call for a shift of focus in measurement from outcome (what one believes) to process (how one thinks), we capitalized on the thinking process behind ontological framing by developing a scale of strong ties and weak ties rationalities (i.e., STWTRS) and by defining rationality in terms of reasoning and thinking rather than Reason. ...
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© 2022, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors' permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/hum0000284
... It is a flexible model because it can explain varying moral standards even in the same group. The use of different kinds of theories other than the moral monism-pluralism dimension would contribute to an inclusive understanding of people's moral judgment in cultural contexts (see also Beal, 2020). ...
Article
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The present work reviews moral judgment from the perspective of culture. Culture is a dynamic system of human beings interacting with their environment, and morality is both a product of this system and a means of maintaining it. When members of a culture engage in moral judgment, they communicate their “social morality” and gain a reputation as a productive member who contributes to the culture’s prosperity. People in different cultures emphasize different moral domains, which is often understood through the individualism-collectivism distinction that is widely utilized in cultural psychology. However, traditional morality research lacks the interactive perspective of culture, where people communicate with shared beliefs about what is good or bad. As a consequence, past work has had numerous limitations and even potential confounds created by methodologies that are grounded in the perspective of WEIRD (i.e., Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) cultures. Great attention should be paid to the possibly misleading assumption that researchers and participants share the same understanding of the stimuli. We must address this bias in sampling and in the minds of researchers and better clarify the concept of culture in intercultural morality research. The theoretical and practical findings from research on culture can then contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms of moral judgment.
... These results add to a growing body of research suggesting that context matters for moral judgment-people judge differently depending on how much they value a target (Beal, 2020) or on the identity of people involved (Hester & Gray, 2020). Just as lay theories about free will, human goodness, and economics can influence moral judgments (Nettle & Saxe, 2020Shariff et al., 2014Shariff et al., , 2016, our data suggest that people's beliefs about men's sexual self-control can also predict moralization of important social issues. ...
Preprint
Why do some people have negative views toward mundane behaviors such as women breastfeeding in public or wearing revealing clothing? We suggest that moral opposition to these behaviors may partly stem from their perceived effects on men’s sexual responses. We hypothesized that (a) people would stereotype men as having relatively less control of their sexual urges (i.e., lower sexual self-control) compared to women and that (b) stereotypes about men’s sexual self-control would uniquely predict attitudes about women’s mundane (but potentially sexually arousing) behaviors. Five studies show that (a) people stereotyped men (vs. women) as lacking sexual self-control (Study 1) and (b) endorsement of this stereotype was associated with opposition to public breastfeeding and immodest clothing (Studies 2-5). The effects hold even after controlling for potential confounds and seem specific to relevant moral domains, although women (vs. men) tend not to view these behaviors as moral issues.
... First, there is the ultimate goal of modeling the complex dynamics of moral cognition. Elsewhere (Beal, 2020;Beal & Gogia, 2021), I describe some of the problems that emerge from the field's lack of understanding of the deeper structure of moral cognition in contemporary models such as Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) (e.g., Graham et al., 2013Graham et al., , 2018Haidt, 2012) and the Theory of Dyadic Morality (TDM) (e.g., Gray et al., 2012;Schein & Gray, 2015, while also analyzing the literature on moral dilemmas (e.g., Foot, 1967;Greene, 2013;Kohlberg, 1981;Mikhail, 2007;Thomson, 1985), dehumanization (e.g., e.g., Harris & Fiske, 2006Haslam, 2006;Haslam & Loughnan, 2014; J.P. Leyens et al., 2007;J-P. Leyens et al., 2003), and moral expansiveness (Crimston et al., 2016(Crimston et al., , 2018. ...
Article
Theorists seeking evidence of moral cognition – whether in human infants, nonhuman animals, or any other population – would benefit from a minimalistic description of what moral cognition is. However, such a definition has proven elusive. Some argue that debates over the existence (or not) of moral cognition in various populations turn on unresolvable semantic disagreement over how to characterize the moral domain. I acknowledge a semantic dimension to some disputes and identify another problem: Often, while sidestepping semantics, researchers rely on logically circular operationalizations, defining moral cognition in terms of elements that are already implicitly understood to be features of moral cognition, while failing to answer the question of what makes these features, or their combination, uniquely moral. The present article proposes a single solution to both problems. The issue of semantics is addressed by the identification of a naturally emerging and distinctive cognitive modality that is necessary to all definitions of moral cognition. The problem of circularity is overcome by a reduction of moral cognition to elements that are, in themselves, nonmoral. I call this distinctive combination of nonmoral elements the “molecular” structure of moral cognition.
... The demarcation of boundaries of moral concern has profound implications for the treatment of all lifeforms (Opotow, 1990;Singer, 1981). Furthermore, understanding the processes underlying attributions of moral worth may provide a foundation for understanding moral cognition more broadly (Beal, 2020). Here, in a violation of standard depictions of the expansion of moral concern (see Crimston et al., 2018b), we found that some individuals ascribe substantial moral value to ontologically distant entities and lesser moral value to ontologically more similar entities. ...
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Previous examinations of the scope of moral concern have focused on aggregate attributions of moral worth. However, because trade‐offs exist in valuing different kinds of entities, tabulating total amounts of moral expansiveness may conceal significant individual differences in the relative proportions of moral valuation ascribed to various entities. We hypothesized that some individuals (“tree‐huggers”) would ascribe greater moral worth to animals and ecosystems than to humans from marginalized or stigmatized groups, while others (“human‐lovers”) would ascribe greater moral worth to outgroup members than to the natural world. Additionally, because moral valuation is often treated as being zero‐sum, we hypothesized that there would be no difference in aggregate levels of moral concern between tree‐huggers and human‐lovers. Finally, because attributions of mental capacities substantially contribute to moral valuation, we predicted that tree‐huggers and human‐lovers would show different patterns of mind attribution for animals versus humans. Three studies (N = 985) yielded evidence in support of our hypotheses. First, over one‐third of participants valued nature over outgroups. Second, extending moral value to animals and nature was not indicative of more expansive moral concern overall; instead, tree‐huggers and human‐lovers were identical in their aggregate ascriptions of moral worth. Third, tree‐huggers had relatively amplified tendencies to attribute mental capacities to animals and relatively reduced tendencies to attribute mental capacities to outgroup members—thus having elevated rates of both anthropomorphism and dehumanization. These findings necessitate a reconceptualization of both the extension of moral worth and the attribution of minds.
... It is possible, for example, that our interventions led children to attend to the frequency with which certain people have differential abilities or the frequency with which certain people tend to exert differential effort, which could have in turn led children to prefer equality or merit, respectively (see Nisan, 1984). The degree to which moral belief change is necessarily yoked to changes in "informational assumptions" (Turiel et al., 1991) or "ontological frames" (Beal, 2020) is a critical area for future exploration. Crucially, however, regardless of whether storybooks and testimony promote change directly (by impacting moral principles without intermediary changes) or indirectly (by first altering children's perceptions of relevant descriptive facts), the end result is an enduring alteration of moral commitments, which demonstrates a form of receptivity to storybooks and testimony that has not previously been documented in moral socialization research. ...
Article
Can social communication alter children's preexisting inclinations toward equality-based or merit-based forms of resource distribution? Six- to eight-year-old children's (N = 248) fairness preferences were evaluated with third-party distribution tasks before and after an intervention. Study 1 indicated that stories about beavers dividing wood had no impact on children's fairness preferences, while Study 2 indicated that brief, direct testimony was highly influential. Study 3 matched storybooks and testimony in content, with each discussing a situation resembling the distribution task, and both formats exerted a significant impact on children's fairness preferences that persisted across several weeks. There were some indications that interventions preaching the superiority of equality-based fairness were particularly effective, but there were no differences between reason-based and emotion-based interventions. Overall, storybooks and testimony can powerfully and enduringly change children's existing distributive justice preferences, as long as the moral lessons that are conveyed are easily transferable to children's real-world contexts.
... On a local level cultural clashes concerning values, beliefs, and morals can create disparities, feelings of injustice, unfairness, and ultimately deprivation. Scholars in the social sciences, and psychology in particular, need to pay special attention to the affects migration and increasing cultural -and therefore moral [54] -pluralism in once homogenous countries. ...
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We review research applying relative deprivation theory to comprehend social, economic, and political phenomena relating to social change. We highlight areas illuminated by relative deprivation and limitations of this contemporary research. Next, we outline four theoretical elaborations of relative deprivation theory to advance understanding of complex socio-economic and political processes of underlying rallies, riots, and revolutions. We end by suggesting methodological approaches and research agendas to understand psychological processes of social change.
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Why do many human societies condemn apparently harmless and pleasurable behaviors, such as lust, gluttony, drinking, drugs, gambling, or even music and dance? Why do they erect temperance, hedonic restraint, sobriety, decency and piety as cardinal moral virtues? While existing accounts consider this puritanical morality as an exception to the cooperative function of moral intuitions, we propose that it stems, like other moral concerns, from moral intuitions targeting cooperative challenges. Specifically, we argue that it emerges in response to a key feature of cooperation, namely that the latter is (ultimately) a long-term strategy, requiring (proximately) the self-control of appetites for immediate gratification. Puritanical moralizations condemn and praise behaviors which, although not intrinsically cooperative or uncooperative, are perceived as affecting people’s propensity to cooperate, by modifying their ability to resist short-term impulses conflicting with cooperative motivations. Drinking, drugs, unruly feasts, dances, and immodest clothing are condemned as stimulating people’s short-term impulses, thus facilitating uncooperative behaviors (e.g. adultery, violence, economic free-riding). Immoderate indulgence in harmless bodily pleasures (e.g. lust, masturbation, gluttony) is perceived as addictively reinforcing short-term impulses, thus making harder the self-control of future temptations to cheat. Moralizations of ascetic temperance, daily self-discipline, and pious ritual observance are perceived as nurturing the self-restraint consubstantial to a cooperative character, able to resist selfish temptations when the latter arise. We review psychological, historical, and ethnographic evidence supporting this account, and discuss its implications regarding the cross-cultural variations and cultural evolution of puritanical norms.
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There is a gap between morality as experienced and morality as studied. In our personal and professional lives, moral judgments are embedded within a specific context. We know the who, what, where, and when and often can infer the why; we know the broader context of actions; and we may have a specific relationship with the actors. However, scholarly theorizing is often built on inferences from participants’ responses to decontextualized, impoverished stimuli. In our quest for uncovering general psychological truths, moral psychologists have examined evaluations of poorly guarded trolleys, strangers with odd sexual proclivities, and endorsement of abstract principles. The four articles included in this section demonstrate the power of contextualizing morality. In the current article, I place these papers within a broader framework for how scholars can contextualize morality research. I then argue why contextualizing morality matters: not only do contextualized questions better reflect the nuances of reality but also contextualized judgments might be key for improving predictions of moral behavior and understanding moral change.
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The burgeoning science of ethics has produced a trend toward pessimism. Ordinary moral thought and action, we're told, are profoundly influenced by arbitrary factors and ultimately driven by unreasoned feelings. This book counters the current orthodoxy on its own terms by carefully engaging with the empirical literature. The result is a cautious optimism grounded in the pervasive role of reason in our moral minds. While the science suggests that moral knowledge and virtue don't come easily, we needn't reject ordinary moral psychology as fundamentally flawed or in need of serious repair. Outstanding Features • An empirical defense of reason's power over the passions. • An aggressive attack on sentimentalism, one of the most popular theories in moral psychology. • A general rebuttal to an entire class of sweeping debunking arguments. • An illumination of the sources of moral ignorance and disagreements. • An updated defense of the existence of genuine altruism. • An empirical argument for the ability to do what's right for the right reasons. • A more optimistic picture of our moral minds.
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Black men tend to be stereotyped as threatening and, as a result, may be disproportionately targeted by police even when unarmed. Here, we found evidence that biased perceptions of young Black men’s physical size may play a role in this process. The results of 7 studies showed that people have a bias to perceive young Black men as bigger (taller, heavier, more muscular) and more physically threatening (stronger, more capable of harm) than young White men. Both bottom-up cues of racial prototypicality and top-down information about race supported these misperceptions. Furthermore, this racial bias persisted even among a target sample from whom upper-body strength was controlled (suggesting that racial differences in formidability judgments are a product of bias rather than accuracy). Biased formidability judgments in turn promoted participants’ justifications of hypothetical use of force against Black suspects of crime. Thus, perceivers appear to integrate multiple pieces of information to ultimately conclude that young Black men are more physically threatening than young White men, believing that they must therefore be controlled using more aggressive measures.
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The present research provides the first systematic empirical investigation into superhumanization, the attribution of supernatural, extrasensory, and magical mental and physical qualities to humans. Five studies test and support the hypothesis that White Americans superhumanize Black people relative to White people. Studies 1-2b demonstrate this phenomenon at an implicit level, showing that Whites preferentially associate Blacks versus Whites with superhuman versus human words on an implicit association test and on a categorization task. Studies 3-4 demonstrate this phenomenon at an explicit level, showing that Whites preferentially attribute superhuman capacities to Blacks versus Whites, and Study 4 specifically shows that superhumanization of Blacks predicts denial of pain to Black versus White targets. Together, these studies demonstrate a novel and potentially detrimental process through which Whites perceive Blacks.
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Many people judge suicide to be immoral. We have found evidence that these moral judgments are primarily predicted by people’s belief that suicide taints the soul and by independent concerns about purity. This finding is inconsistent with accounts that define morality as fundamentally based upon harm considerations. In this commentary, we respond to a critique of our finding, and we provide further support for our original conclusions. Even when applying new exclusion criteria to our data, an examination of effect sizes demonstrates that concerns about purity robustly and meaningfully explain variance in moral judgments of suicide. While harm concerns sometimes predict moral judgments of suicide alongside purity concerns, they reliably explain a much smaller proportion of the variance than do purity concerns. Therefore, data from six studies continue to suggest that the relevance of harm concerns for moral judgments of suicide is substantially overshadowed by the contribution of purity concerns.
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Recent research with moral dilemmas supports dual-process model of moral decision making. This model posits two different paths via which people can endorse utilitarian solution that requires personally harming someone in order to achieve the greater good (e.g., killing one to save five people): (i) weakened emotional aversion to the prospect of harming someone due to reduced empathic concern for the victim; (ii) enhanced cognition which supports cost-benefit analysis and countervails the prepotent emotional aversion to harm. Direct prediction of this model would be that personality traits associated with reduced empathy would show higher propensity to endorse utilitarian solutions. As per this prediction, we found that trait alexithymia, which is well-known to have deficits in empathy, was indeed associated with increased utilitarian tendencies on emotionally aversive personal moral dilemmas and this was due to reduced empathic concern for the victim. Results underscore the importance of empathy for moral judgments in harm/care domain of morality.
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When something is wrong, someone is harmed. This hypothesis derives from the theory of dyadic morality, which suggests a moral cognitive template of wrongdoing agent and suffering patient (i.e., victim). This dyadic template means that victimless wrongs (e.g., masturbation) are psychologically incomplete, compelling the mind to perceive victims even when they are objectively absent. Five studies reveal that dyadic completion occurs automatically and implicitly: Ostensibly harmless wrongs are perceived to have victims (Study 1), activate concepts of harm (Studies 2 and 3), and increase perceptions of suffering (Studies 4 and 5). These results suggest that perceiving harm in immorality is intuitive and does not require effortful rationalization. This interpretation argues against both standard interpretations of moral dumbfounding and domain-specific theories of morality that assume the psychological existence of harmless wrongs. Dyadic completion also suggests that moral dilemmas in which wrongness (deontology) and harm (utilitarianism) conflict are unrepresentative of typical moral cognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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The aim of this study was to investigate Colombian children’s evaluations of locus of control, compliance, teacher legitimacy, and teacher methods of conflict resolution regarding personal, moral, and social-conventional interactions in the classroom setting. Sixty-three middle class Colombian children at 3 years (n = 20), 5 years (n = 24), and 7 years (n = 19) of age, almost evenly divided by gender, were individually interviewed. With increasing age, children judged that children, not teachers, should make decisions (locus of control) about choice of activities and choice of playmates, and for some social-conventional issues as well. The vast majority of children, with increasing age, preferred that teachers use negotiation and explanation instead of punishment when responding to all types of conflicts, personal, moral, and social-conventional ones. Colombian children’s reasoning about personal, moral, and social-conventional events was not strictly “hierarchical” or “authority-oriented” as might be expected from recent cultural theorising.
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Observations and interviews were conducted in the Virgin Islands to examine the forms of responses adults and preschool children provided to moral and social conventional transgressions, and to determine whether children and adolescents made a conceptual distinction between morality and convention. Findings from both portions of the study paralled outcomes of previous observational and interview studies conducted with subjects in the United States. The observations in Virgin Islands preschools revealed that the responses of both adults and children to social conventional events differed from their responses to moral events. Both children's and adults' responses to moral events focused upon the intrinsic (hurtful or unjust) consequences of the actions upon victims. In contrast, the responses of both children and adults to transgressions of social conventions revolved around aspects of social order.Two forms of convention were observed: conventional school regulations and general conventions. Almost all responses to transgressions of conventional school regulations were initiated by adults. Children and adults responded with equal frequency to transgressions of general conventions. Interviews conducted with the preschool children revealed that they discriminated between the observed moral and conventional transgressions. These results were concordant with findings from interviews in the second portion of the study that older children and adolescents of the Virgin Islands treated conventional but not moral issues as relative.
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The purpose of this study was to examine whether children in a non-Western cultural context make conceptual distinctions between morality and social convention. Fifty children from Busan, Korea, 10 each in kindergarten, third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth grades, were presented with prototypical moral and conventional transgressions. They made judgments of rule contingency, generalizability, and permissibility and also justified the wrongness of the acts. At all ages, children treated moral transgressions as more generalizably wrong and independent of rules than conventional transgressions. All transgressions were seen as not permissible, but moral transgressions were judged as less permissible than conventional transgressions. Younger children (kindergarten and Grade 3) judged conventional transgressions as less permissible than older children. Further, all children justified moral transgressions on the basis of obligation, fairness, and welfare, whereas they justified conventional transgressions on the basis of authority, social nonconformity, social coordination, prudential reasons, and (among young children) sanctions and pragmatic reasons. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Examined the impact of contextual factors on Indian and American adults' and children's ( N = 180) tendencies to hold agents morally accountable for justice breaches. Results revealed that Indians more frequently absolved agents of moral accountability for breaches performed under emotional duress or by young children than did Americans. Breaches were less frequently categorized in moral terms when moral reasoning and accountability judgments were assessed simultaneously than when only moral reasoning was assessed. Discussion considered (1) the impact of nonmoral beliefs on cultural and age differences in everyday moral judgment; (2) the use of personal-choice reasoning in weighting of extenuating circumstances; and (3) the methodological importance of focusing simultaneously on responsibility appraisals and social domain categorizations in understanding contextual influences on moral reasoning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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A model is presented to account for the natural selection of what is termed reciprocally altruistic behavior. The model shows how selection can operate against the cheater (non-reciprocator) in the system. Three instances of altruistic behavior are discussed, the evolution of which the model can explain: (1) behavior involved in cleaning symbioses; (2) warning cries in birds; and (3) human reciprocal altruism. Regarding human reciprocal altruism, it is shown that the details of the psychological system that regulates this altruism can be explained by the model. Specifically, friendship, dislike, moralistic aggression, gratitude, sympathy, trust, suspicion, trustworthiness, aspects of guilt, and some forms of dishonesty and hypocrisy can be explained as important adaptations to regulate the altruistic system. Each individual human is seen as possessing altruistic and cheating tendencies, the expression of which is sensitive to developmental variables that were selected to set the tendencies at a balance ap...
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Where does morality come from? Why are moral judgments often so similar across cultures, yet sometimes so variable? Is morality one thing, or many? Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) was created to answer these questions. In this chapter, we describe the origins, assumptions, and current conceptualization of the theory and detail the empirical findings that MFT has made possible, both within social psychology and beyond. Looking toward the future, we embrace several critiques of the theory and specify five criteria for determining what should be considered a foundation of human morality. Finally, we suggest a variety of future directions for MFT and moral psychology.
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Part I. The Nature of Morality and the Development of Social Values: 1. Morality and domains of social knowledge 2. Morality and religious rules 3. Morality and the personal domain 4. Morality in context: issues of development 5. Morality in context: issues of culture 6. Morality and emotion 7. Reconceptualizing moral character Part II. Classroom Applications: 8. Creating a moral atmosphere 9. Integrating values education into the curriculum: a domain approach 10. Fostering the moral self Conclusion: keeping things in perspective Additional resources.
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