Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Group Moral Licensing

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Group Moral Licensing

overcoming bias July 23, 2011 11:45 am

Robin Hanson

We are more willing to do bad if we have recently done good. We also think we get more excuses to do bad if our group is good:

Five studies supported the hypothesis that people are more willing to express prejudiced attitudes when their group members’ past behavior has established nonprejudiced credentials. Study 1a showed that participants who were told that their group was more moral than similar other groups were more willing to describe a job as better suited for Whites than for African Americans. In Study 1b, when given information on group members’ prior nondiscriminatory behavior (selecting a Hispanic applicant in a prior task), participants subsequently gave more discriminatory ratings to the Hispanic applicant for a position stereotypically suited for majority members (Whites). In Study 2, moral self-concept mediated the effect of others’ prior nonprejudiced actions on a participant’s subsequent prejudiced behavior such that others’ past nonprejudiced actions enhanced the participant’s moral self-concept, and this inflated moral self-concept subsequently drove the participant’s prejudiced ratings of a Hispanic applicant. In Study 3, the moderating role of identification with the credentialing group was tested. Results showed that participants expressed more prejudiced attitudes toward a Hispanic applicant when they highly identified with the group members behaving in nonprejudiced manner. In Study 4, the credentialing task was dissociated from the participants’ own judgmental task, and, in addition, identification with the credentialing group was manipulated rather than measured. Consistent with prior studies, the results showed that participants who first had the opportunity to view an in-group member’s nonprejudiced hiring decision were more likely to reject an African American man for a job stereotypically suited for majority members. These studies suggest a vicarious moral licensing effect. (more)

Citizens of the United States are especially proud of a history of (supposedly) doing good. The US sees itself as having saved the world from Nazism and Communism, of creating and sustaining modern medicine, of educating the world via the best universities, of being the main innovators in computer tech, of upholding the highest standards of civil and gender rights, of being unusually devoted to religion, etc.

All this self-respect, deserved or not, probably makes US citizens more willing to do bad, both individually and collectively. Dear US citizens: please ask yourself how sure you can be that your actions on the world stage are actually for good.

Categories: Ethics

Mapping the moral domain.

July 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Mapping the moral domain.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Vol 101(2), Aug 2011, 366-385. doi: 10.1037/a0021847

Graham, Jesse; Nosek, Brian A.; Haidt, Jonathan; Iyer, Ravi; Koleva, Spassena; Ditto, Peter H.

The moral domain is broader than the empathy and justice concerns assessed by existing measures of moral competence, and it is not just a subset of the values assessed by value inventories. To fill the need for reliable and theoretically grounded measurement of the full range of moral concerns, we developed the Moral Foundations Questionnaire on the basis of a theoretical model of 5 universally available (but variably developed) sets of moral intuitions: Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. We present evidence for the internal and external validity of the scale and the model, and in doing so we present new findings about morality: (a) Comparative model fitting of confirmatory factor analyses provides empirical justification for a 5-factor structure of moral concerns; (b) convergent/discriminant validity evidence suggests that moral concerns predict personality features and social group attitudes not previously considered morally relevant; and (c) we establish pragmatic validity of the measure in providing new knowledge and research opportunities concerning demographic and cultural differences in moral intuitions. These analyses provide evidence for the usefulness of Moral Foundations Theory in simultaneously increasing the scope and sharpening the resolution of psychological views of morality. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

Categories: Ethics

When team members’ values differ: The moderating role of team leadership

July 12, 2011 Leave a comment

When team members’ values differ: The moderating role of team leadership

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

Volume 114, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 25-36

Katherine J. Klein, Andrew P. Knight, Jonathan C. Ziegert, Beng Chong Lim and Jessica L. Saltz

Integrating theory and research on values, diversity, situational strength, and team leadership, we proposed that team leadership moderates the effects of values diversity on team conflict. In a longitudinal survey study of national service teams, we found significant, but opposite, moderating effects of task-focused and person-focused leadership. As predicted, task-focused leadership attenuated the diversity–conflict relationship, while person-focused leadership exacerbated the diversity–conflict relationship. More specifically, task-focused leadership decreased the relationship between work ethic diversity and team conflict. Person-focused leadership increased the relationship between traditionalism diversity and team conflict. Team conflict mediated the effects of the interactions of leadership and values diversity on team effectiveness.

Keywords: Values; Diversity; Leadership; Teams; Conflict

Categories: Ethics, Leadership

Culture and the role of choice in agency.

Culture and the role of choice in agency.


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – Vol 93, Iss 1 »

Three cross-cultural studies conducted among U.S. and Indian adults compared perceptions of helping friends in strongly versus weakly expected cases, views of helping family versus strangers, and responses to a self-determination motivation scale. Expectations to help family and friends were positively correlated with satisfaction and choice only among Indians and not among Americans. Also, whereas U.S. respondents associated lesser satisfaction and choice with strongly versus weakly socially expected helping, Indian respondents associated equal satisfaction and choice with the 2 types of cases. Providing evidence of the importance of choice in collectivist cultures, the results indicate that social expectations to meet the needs of family and friends tend to be more fully internalized among Indians than among Americans. Methodologically, the results also highlight the need to incorporate items that tap more internalized meanings of role-related social expectations on measures of motivation in the tradition of self-determination theory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

Categories: Ethics, Trust

A Review of the Tripartite Structure of Subjective Well-Being: Implications for Conceptualization, Operationalization, Analysis, and Synthesis

June 29, 2011 Leave a comment

A Review of the Tripartite Structure of Subjective Well-Being: Implications for Conceptualization, Operationalization, Analysis, and Synthesis

Subjective well-being (SWB) comprises a global evaluation of life satisfaction and positive and negative affective reactions to one’s life. Despite the apparent simplicity of this tripartite model, the structure of SWB remains in question. In the present review, the authors identify five prominent structural conceptualizations in which SWB is cast variously as three separate components, a hierarchical construct, a causal system, a composite, and as configurations of components. Supporting evidence for each of these models is reviewed, strengths and weaknesses are evaluated, and commonalities and discrepancies among approaches are described. The authors demonstrate how current ambiguities concerning the tripartite structure of SWB have fundamental implications for conceptualization, measurement, analysis, and synthesis. Given these ambiguities, it is premature to propose a definitive structure of SWB. Rather, the authors outline a research agenda comprising both short-term and longer-term steps toward resolving these foundational, yet largely unaddressed, issues concerning SWB.

Categories: Ethics

Space vs. Time Genocide

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Consider two possible “genocide” scenarios:

  • Space Genocide – We expect the galaxy to have many diverse civilizations, with diverse behaviors and values, though we don’t know much about them. Their expansion tendencies would naturally lead to a stalemate, with different civilizations controlling different parts of the galaxy. Imagine, however, that it turns out we luckily have a chance to suddenly destroy all other civilizations in the galaxy, so that our civilization can expand to take it all over. (Other galaxies remain unchanged.) Let this destruction process be mild, such as sudden unanticipated death or a sterility allowing one last generation to live out its life. There is a modest (~5%) chance we will fail and if we fail all civilizations in the galaxy are destroyed. Should we try this option?
  • Time Genocide – As their tech and environments changed, our distant ancestors evolved differing basic behaviors and values to match. We expect that our distant descendants will also naturally evolve different basic behaviors and values to match their changing tech and environments. Imagine, however, that it turns out we luckily have a chance to suddenly prevent any change in basic behaviors and values of our descendants from this day forward. If we succeed, we prevent the existence of descendants with differing basic behaviors and values, replacing them with creatures much like us. There is a modest (~5%) chance we will fail and if we fail all our descendants will be destroyed or exist in a mostly worthless state. Should we try this option?

Probably, more people can accept or recommend time genocide than space genocide, even if success in both scenarios prevents the existence of a similar number of relatively alien creatures, to be replaced by a similar number of creatures more like us. This seems related to our tending to admire time-stretched civilizations (e.g., Rivendale) more than space-stretched civilizations (e.g., Trantor), even though space-stretched ones seemobjectively more prosperous. But what exactly is the relation?

The common thread, I suspect, is that the far future seems more far, in near/far concrete/abstract terms, than situations far away in space, or in the far past. The near/far distinction was first noticed in how people treated the future differently, and our knowing especially little detail about the future makes it especially easy to slip into abstract thought about the future.

As we are less practical, more idealistic, and more uncompromising in far mode, we see civilizations time-stretched into the future as more ideal, and we are more willing to commit genocide to achieve our ideals regarding such a civilization, even at a substantial risk.

Of course the future isn’t actually any less detailed than the past or places far away in space. And there isn’t any good reason to hold the far future to higher ideals now than we’d be inclined to want when the future actually arrives. If so, time-genocide should be no more morally acceptable than space-genocide. Beware the siren song of shiny far future thought.

Categories: Ethics

Women Enforce Norms

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Women Enforce Norms

It seems women are more in the role of enforcing social norms:

While there is ample evidence of a society-wide cooperation norm, it is not as clear who upholds this norm. In the present paper, we investigate whether there are gender differences with respect to norm enforcement. We let 1403 subjects play games of punishment and reward, individually or in groups with varying gender composition. Broadly, the results indicate that there are no clear gender differences: men are about as inclined as women to punish norm-breakers. However, behavior is context-dependent: men acting among other men are less inclined to uphold a cooperation norm than are women, or men in gender-mixed groups.

A self-protective goal increased conformity for both men and women. In contrast, the effects of a romantic goal depended on sex, causing women to conform more to others’ preferences while engendering nonconformity in men. Men motivated to attract a mate were particularly likely to nonconform when (a) nonconformity made them unique (but not merely a member of a small minority) and when (b) the topic was subjective versus objective, meaning that nonconformists could not be revealed to be incorrect. These findings fit with a functional evolutionary model of motivation and behavior, and they indicate that fundamental motives such as self-protection and mate attraction can stimulate specific forms of conformity or nonconformity for strategic self-presentation.

It isn’t clear how innate is this female norm emphasis, but if innate then female nature probably deserves more of the credit for enabling the farming revolution, and also probably more of the blame for hindering the industrial revolution.

Categories: Ethics