Moral foundations theory

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An illustration of Moral foundations Theory created by Aprilia Muktirina

Moral foundations theory is a social psychological theory intended to explain the origins of and variation in human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, modular foundations.[1][2] It was first proposed by the psychologists Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, building on the work of cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder; and subsequently developed by a diverse group of collaborators, and popularized in Haidt's book The Righteous Mind.

The original theory proposed five foundations: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation. It now includes a sixth parameter, Liberty/Oppression;[3][4] while its authors remain open to the addition, subtraction or modification of the set of foundations.[2](pp104–107)

Although the initial development of moral foundations theory focused on cultural differences, subsequent work with the theory has largely focused on political ideology. Various scholars have offered moral foundations theory as an explanation of differences among political progressives (liberals in the American sense), conservatives, and libertarians, and have suggested that it can explain variation in opinion on politically charged issues such as same sex marriage and abortion.[5]

The two main sources are The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism[2] and Mapping the Moral Domain.[6] In the first Haidt and Graham describe their work as looking, as anthropologists, at the evolution of morality and finding the common ground between each variation. In the second they describe and defend their method, known as the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. Through various trials and a participation population that consisted of over 11,000 people, from all ages and political beliefs, they were able to find results that supported their prediction.

Origins[edit]

Moral foundations theory was first proposed in 2004 by Haidt and Joseph.[1] The theory emerged as a reaction against the developmental rationalist theory of morality associated with Lawrence Kohlberg and Jean Piaget.[7] Building on Piaget's work, Kohlberg argued that children's moral reasoning changed over time, and proposed an explanation through his six stages of moral development. Kohlberg's work emphasized justice as the key concept in moral reasoning, seen as a primarily cognitive activity, and became the dominant approach to moral psychology, heavily influencing subsequent work.[8][4] Haidt writes that he found Kohlberg's theories unsatisfying from the time he first encountered them in graduate school because they "seemed too cerebral" and lacked a focus on issues of emotion.

In contrast to the dominant theories of morality in psychology, the anthropologist Richard Shweder developed a set of theories emphasizing the cultural variability of moral judgments, but argued that different cultural forms of morality drew on "three distinct but coherent clusters of moral concerns", which he labeled as the ethics of autonomy, community, and divinity.[9] Shweder's approach inspired Haidt to begin researching moral differences across cultures, including fieldwork in Brazil and Philadelphia. This work led Haidt to begin developing his social intuitionist approach to morality. This approach, which stood in sharp contrast to Kohlberg's rationalist work, suggested that "moral judgment is caused by quick moral intuitions" while moral reasoning simply serves as a post-hoc rationalization of already formed judgments.[7] Haidt's work and his focus on quick, intuitive, emotional judgments quickly became very influential, attracting sustained attention from an array of researchers.[10]

As Haidt and his collaborators worked within the social intuitionist approach, they began to devote attention to the sources of the intuitions that they believed underlay moral judgments. In a 2004 article published in the journal Daedalus, Haidt and Craig Joseph surveyed works on the roots of morality, including the work of Frans de Waal, Donald Brown and Shweder, as well as Alan Fiske's Relational Models Theory and Shalom Schwartz's Theory of Basic Human Values. From their review of these earlier lines of research, they suggested that all individuals possess four "intuitive ethics", stemming from the process of human evolution as responses to adaptive challenges. They labelled these four ethics as suffering, hierarchy, reciprocity, and purity. According to Haidt and Joseph, each of the ethics formed a cognitive module, whose development was shaped by culture. They wrote that each module could "provide little more than flashes of affect when certain patterns are encountered in the social world", while a cultural learning process shaped each individual's response to these flashes. Morality diverges because different cultures utilize the four "building blocks" provided by the modules differently.[1] This article became the first statement of moral foundations theory, which Haidt, Joseph, and others have since elaborated and refined.

The five foundations[edit]

According to Moral Foundations Theory, differences in people's moral concerns can be described in terms of five moral foundations:

  • Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
  • Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
  • Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
  • Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
  • Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation

These five foundations are argued to group into two higher-order clusters – the person-focused Individualizing cluster of Care and Fairness, and the group-focused Binding cluster of Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity.[11][12] The evidence favoring this grouping comes from patterns of associations between the moral foundations observed with the Moral Foundations Questionnaire.[11][6]

A sixth foundation, liberty (opposite of oppression) was theorized by Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind, chapter eight, in response to the need to differentiate between proportionality fairness and the objections he had received from conservatives and libertarians (United States usage) to coercion by a dominating power or person.[3] Haidt noted that the latter group's moral matrix relies almost entirely on the liberty foundation.

Methods[edit]

A large amount of research on Moral Foundations Theory uses self-report instruments such as the Moral Foundations Questionnaire,[6] the Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale,[13] and Moral Foundations Vignettes.[14] Research on moral language use have also relied on variants of a Moral Foundations Dictionary.[11][15][16]

Applications[edit]

Political ideology[edit]

Results of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire

Researchers have found that people's sensitivities to the five/six moral foundations correlate with their political ideologies. Using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, Haidt and Graham found that libertarians are most sensitive to the proposed Liberty foundation,[4] liberals are most sensitive to the Care and Fairness foundations, while conservatives are equally sensitive to all five/six foundations.[6] Joshua Greene argued however that liberals tend to emphasise the Care, Fairness and Liberty dimensions; conservatives the Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity dimensions.[17]

According to Haidt, the differences have significant implications for political discourse and relations. Because members of two political camps are to a degree blind to one or more of the moral foundations of the others, they may perceive morally driven words or behavior as having another basis—at best self-interested, at worst evil, and thus demonize one another.[18]

Haidt and Graham suggest a compromise can be found to allow liberals and conservatives to see eye-to-eye.[19] They suggest that the five foundations can be used as "doorway" to allow liberals to step to the conservative side of the "wall" put up between these two political affiliations on major political issues (i.e. legalizing gay marriage). If liberals try to consider the latter three foundations in addition to the former two (therefore adopting all five foundations like conservatives for a brief amount of time) they could understand where the conservatives viewpoints stem from and long-lasting political issues could finally be settled.

Researchers postulate that the moral foundations arose as solutions to problems common in the ancestral hunter-gatherer environment, in particular intertribal and intra-tribal conflict. The three foundations emphasized more by conservatives (Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity) bind groups together for greater strength in intertribal competition while the other two foundations balance those tendencies with concern for individuals within the group. With reduced sensitivity to the group moral foundations, progressives tend to promote a more universalist morality.[20]

Cross-cultural differences[edit]

Haidt's initial field work in Brazil and Philadelphia in 1989,[21] and Odisha, India in 1993, showed that moralizing indeed varies among cultures, but less than by social class (e.g. education) and age. Working-class Brazilian children were more likely to consider both taboo violations and infliction of harm to be morally wrong, and universally so. Members of traditional, collectivist societies, like political conservatives, are more sensitive to violations of the community-related moral foundations. Adult members of so-called WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) societies are the most individualistic, and most likely to draw a distinction between harm-inflicting violations of morality and violations of convention.[4]

Subsequent investigations of moral foundations theory in other cultures have found broadly similar correlations between morality and political identification to those of the US, with studies taking place in Korea, Sweden and New Zealand.[22][23][24]

Critiques and competing theories[edit]

A number of researchers have offered critiques of, and alternative theories to, Moral Foundations Theory. Critiques of the theory have included claims of biological implausibility[25] and redundancy among the moral foundations (which are argued to be reducible to concern about harm).[26] Both critiques have been disputed by the original authors.[27][28] Alternative theories include the Model of Moral Motives,[29] the Theory of Dyadic Morality,[30][26] Relationship Regulation Theory,[31] the right-wing authoritarianism scale developed by Bob Altemeyer,[32] and the theory of Morality As Cooperation.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Haidt, Jonathan; Craig Joseph (Fall 2004). "Intuitive ethics: how innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues" (PDF). Daedalus. 133 (4): 55–66. doi:10.1162/0011526042365555.
  2. ^ a b c Graham, J.; Haidt, J.; Koleva, S.; Motyl, M.; Iyer, R.; Wojcik, S.; Ditto, P.H. (2013). Moral Foundations Theory: The pragmatic validity of moral pluralism (PDF). Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. 47. pp. 55–130. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-407236-7.00002-4. ISBN 9780124072367.
  3. ^ a b Iyer, Ravi; Koleva, Spassena; Graham, Jesse; Ditto, Peter; Haidt, Jonathan (2012). "Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians". PLOS ONE. 7 (8): e42366. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...742366I. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366. PMC 3424229. PMID 22927928.
  4. ^ a b c d Haidt, Jonathan (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books. pp. 9–11. ISBN 978-0-307-37790-6.
  5. ^ Koleva, Spassena P.; Graham, Jesse; Iyer, Ravi; Ditto, Peter H.; Haidt, Jonathan (April 2012). "Tracing the threads: How five moral concerns (especially Purity) help explain culture war attitudes". Journal of Research in Personality. 46 (2): 184–194. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2012.01.006.
  6. ^ a b c d Graham, Jesse; Nosek, Brian A.; Haidt, Jonathan; Iyer, Ravi; Koleva, Spassena; Ditto, Peter H. (2011). "Mapping the moral domain" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 101 (2): 366–385. doi:10.1037/a0021847. PMC 3116962. PMID 21244182.
  7. ^ a b Haidt, Jonathan (October 2001). "The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgement" (PDF). Psychological Review. 108 (4): 817. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.620.5536. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.108.4.814. PMID 11699120.
  8. ^ Donleavy, Gabriel (July 2008). "No Man's Land: Exploring the Space between Gilligan and Kohlberg". Journal of Business Ethics. 80 (4): 807–822. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9470-9. JSTOR 25482183.
  9. ^ Shweder, Richard; Jonathan Haidt (November 1993). "Commentary to Feature Review: The Future of Moral Psychology: Truth, Intuition, and the Pluralist Way". Psychological Science. 4 (6): 360–365. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00582.x. JSTOR 40062563.
  10. ^ Miller, Greg (9 May 2008). "The Roots of Morality". Science. 320 (5877): 734–737. doi:10.1126/science.320.5877.734. PMID 18467565.
  11. ^ a b c Graham, Jesse; Haidt, Jonathan; Nosek, Brian A. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 96 (5): 1029–1046. doi:10.1037/a0015141. PMID 19379034.
  12. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Graham, Jesse (2009). "Planet of the Durkheimians, where community, authority, and sacredness are foundations of morality". In Jost, John; Kay, Aaron; Thorisdottir, Hulda (eds.). Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification. Oxford University Press. pp. 371–401. ISBN 9780199869541.
  13. ^ Graham, Jesse; Haidt, Jonathan (2012). "Sacred values and evil adversaries: A moral foundations approach". In Mikulincer, Mario; Shaver, Phillip R (eds.). The Social Psychology of Morality: Exploring the Causes of Good and Evil. APA Books. ISBN 978-1433810114.
  14. ^ Clifford, Scott; Iyengar, Vijeth; Cabeza, Roberto; Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (13 January 2015). "Moral foundations vignettes: a standardized stimulus database of scenarios based on moral foundations theory". Behavior Research Methods. 47 (4): 1178–1198. doi:10.3758/s13428-014-0551-2. PMC 4780680. PMID 25582811.
  15. ^ Hoover, Joe; Johnson, Kate; Boghrati, Reihane; Graham, Jesse; Dehghani, Morteza (26 April 2018). "Moral Framing and Charitable Donation: Integrating Exploratory Social Media Analyses and Confirmatory Experimentation". Collabra: Psychology. 4 (1): 9. doi:10.1525/collabra.129.
  16. ^ Matsuo, Akiko; Sasahara, Kazutoshi; Taguchi, Yasuhiro; Karasawa, Minoru; Gruebner, Oliver (25 March 2019). "Development and validation of the Japanese Moral Foundations Dictionary". PLOS ONE. 14 (3): e0213343. arXiv:1804.00871. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0213343.
  17. ^ R Sapolsky, Behave (London 2018) p. 450
  18. ^ Jonathan Haidt, Bill Moyers (3 February 2012). Jonathan Haidt Explains Our Contentious Culture (Television production). Lebanon: Public Square Media, Inc.
  19. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Graham, Jesse (2007-06-01). "When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize". Social Justice Research. 20 (1): 98–116. doi:10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z. ISSN 0885-7466.
  20. ^ Sinn, J.S.; Hayes, M.W. (2017). "Replacing the Moral Foundations: An Evolutionary‐Coalitional Theory of Liberal‐Conservative Differences". Political Psychology. 38 (6): 1043–1064. doi:10.1111/pops.12361.
  21. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Koller, Silvia Helena; Dias, Maria G. (1993). "Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog?". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 65 (4): 613–628. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.65.4.613.
  22. ^ Kim, Kisok; Je-Sang Kang; Seongyi Yun (August 2012). "Moral intuitions and political orientation: Similarities and differences between Korea and the United States". Psychological Reports. 111 (1): 173–185. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050092. PMC 3520939. PMID 23251357.
  23. ^ Nilsson, Artur; Erlandsson, Arvid (April 2015). "The Moral Foundations taxonomy: Structural validity and relation to political ideology in Sweden". Personality and Individual Differences. 76: 28–32. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.049.
  24. ^ Davies, Caitlin L.; Sibley, Chris G.; Liu, James H. (November 2014). "Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire". Social Psychology. 45 (6): 431–436. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000201.
  25. ^ Suhler, Christopher L.; Churchland, Patricia (September 2011). "Can Innate, Modular "Foundations" Explain Morality? Challenges for Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 23 (9): 2103–2116. doi:10.1162/jocn.2011.21637. PMID 21291315.
  26. ^ a b Schein, Chelsea; Gray, Kurt (14 May 2017). "The Theory of Dyadic Morality: Reinventing Moral Judgment by Redefining Harm". Personality and Social Psychology Review. 22 (1): 32–70. doi:10.1177/1088868317698288.
  27. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Joseph, Craig (September 2011). "How Moral Foundations Theory Succeeded in Building on Sand: A Response to Suhler and Churchland". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 23 (9): 2117–2122. doi:10.1162/jocn.2011.21638.
  28. ^ Koleva, Spassena; Haidt, Jonathan (April 2012). "Let's Use Einstein's Safety Razor, Not Occam's Swiss Army Knife or Occam's Chainsaw". Psychological Inquiry. 23 (2): 175–178. doi:10.1080/1047840X.2012.667678.
  29. ^ Janoff-Bulman, Ronnie; Carnes, Nate C. (16 March 2013). "Surveying the Moral Landscape". Personality and Social Psychology Review. 17 (3): 219–236. doi:10.1177/1088868313480274.
  30. ^ Gray, Kurt; Young, Liane; Waytz, Adam (April 2012). "Mind Perception Is the Essence of Morality". Psychological Inquiry. 23 (2): 101–124. doi:10.1080/1047840X.2012.651387. PMC 3379786. PMID 22754268.
  31. ^ Rai, Tage Shakti; Fiske, Alan Page (2011). "Moral psychology is relationship regulation: Moral motives for unity, hierarchy, equality, and proportionality". Psychological Review. 118 (1): 57–75. doi:10.1037/a0021867. PMID 21244187.
  32. ^ Verhulst, B.; Eaves, L. J.; Hatemi, P. K. (2012). "Correlation not causation: the relationship between personality traits and political ideologies". American Journal of Political Science. 56 (1): 34–51. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00568.x. PMC 3809096. PMID 22400142.
  33. ^ Curry, Oliver Scott; Jones Chesters, Matthew; Van Lissa, Caspar J. (February 2019). "Mapping morality with a compass: Testing the theory of 'morality-as-cooperation' with a new questionnaire". Journal of Research in Personality. 78: 106–124. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2018.10.008.

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