Research

 

Moralization of self control.

Our main goal is to explore how self control can be moralized (e.g., in terms of fairness or purity) based on the Moral Foundations Theory. Then, we look at which specific types of moralization change the likelihood of actually meeting those goals. We have found group-oriented morality to increase self-control moralization.

 

Moral language and transformative experience.

Transformative experiences can be extremely complicated to study, involving many different types of analyses. We have been using computational natural language processing and machine learning to create dictionaries that are able to differentiate between transformative and non-transformative experiences. This allows for a more widespread ability to detect these types of experiences in various platforms.

 

Moral message diffusion in social networks.

This project focuses on utilizing the moral content and network structure of online messages to help predict large scale behaviors (for example, shared blood donation links on social media after the Boston Marathon tragedy in 2013). Utilizing moral psychology, network sociology, and computer science, we aim to increase the well-being of individuals in emergency situations as well as to forecast social change.

 

Exploring the effects of ideology on morality.

We have been investigating how political ideology can influence both the content of moral concerns (e.g., social equality, sexual purity) and the processes of moral decision-making (e.g., judging actions based on rules vs. consequences). We are also exploring how moral worldviews buttress ideological characteristics and shared ideological narratives.

 

Mapping the moral domain.

Much of our work is based on Moral Foundations Theory, which posits several universally available but cultural variable moral intuitions, including sensitivities to harm, cheating, group betrayal, subversion, and degradation. See this paper on the pragmatic validity of the theory and related measures for conceptualizing, measuring, and explaining human morality.

 

Reducing moral hypocrisy.

Thanks to a grant from the Templeton Foundation, we have begun work on mapping and ultimately reducing moral hypocrisy -- that is, holding others to a higher moral standard than one holds oneself. In this project we are expanding the scope and capabilities of the YourMorals.org infrastructure in order to test the effectiveness of multiple interventions for different values and different people in different parts of the world.

 

Charting moral persuasion.

Several projects are underway looking at moral persuasion, trying to chart how it differs from persuasion in non-moralized domains. Rather than just a particularly difficult kind of persuasion, we hypothesize that moral persuasion operates via psychological processes distinct from other instances of persuasion.

 

Also.

Well, we also have a project called "tight skin, loose morals," but we can't tell you about that yet.