What are your moral receptors?

2012 Thing on Thursday #2

This week’s poll draws on the work of social scientist Jonathan Haidt and his moral foundations theory.  If interested, you can take the official questionnaire (the academic real deal, not just some Internet meme) to discover which moral foundations operate most strongly for you

Haidt’s research identifies five moral foundations which appeal differently to different people.  He uses the metaphor of taste receptors: in the same way as certain foods trip the trigger of certain receptors on your tongue while others trip others, different moral issues trigger different “receptors” for moral responses.  And different people may have different concentrations of receptors.

The following poll is based on the five foundations from The Righteous Mind, though a sixth is added here.  See the TED talk below for detailed explanations.

Please choose as many as appeal strongly to you.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W.G. CollingwoodThis post is part of a series of councils on matters vital to the future.  The name represents both the generic term for, you know, a thingie, as well as the Old Norse term for a council of elders: a Thing.

Each week from the Autumn Equinox until the Winter Solstice, Thing on Thursday explores a new controversy.  Participation is open to all – the more minds that come together, the better.  Those who have been vocal in the comments are as welcome as those quiet-but-devoted readers who have yet to venture a word.  We value all constructive opinions.

There are only a few rules:

  • be constructive – this is a council, so treat it as such
  • be respectful – no rants or flames

Comments will be taken into consideration as we determine the new direction of Humanistic Paganism.

So please make your voice heard in the comments!

6 Comments on “What are your moral receptors?

  1. I did the official survey. I got the highest score for harm/care and that is what I checked in the poll. Loyalty got the second highest in my quiz. Maybe it’s all that thinking about religious cohesiveness. I think Haidt’s work is very helpful for understanding the psychological foundations of traditional religion, including ancient polytheism. I don’t think we need to value all the foundations equally, but I have come to believe they are all important for building sustainable cohesive groups. If new religions are going to stand the test of time they are going to need a little cohesion. FYI Haidt does cover the liberty/oppression foundation in his book “The Righteous Mind”, but he does it in a separate section (see page 170). I love that you used Haidt’s moral foundation theory for a Thing on Thursday!

    • Interesting: harm/care and ingroup/loyalty together – an unusual combination!

      When I took the official test, I expected to score like a liberal (high on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, low on others), but ended up being even more radical than the average liberal. My purity/sanctity score was actually 0%! I was surprised.

      Thanks for pointing out about the sixth foundation in the book. It’s in the mail, but I haven’t read it yet.

      I agree the foundations help us make sense of ancient polytheism. It gives a framework for why a guy like me (with 0% purity/sanctity) would scratch his head when confronting ancient Greek obsessions with miasma (impurity).

  2. I didn’t quite get 0% on the sanctity/pruity foundation, but it was my lowest score, which is interesting since this s the foundation most peculiar to religion. Haidt has some interesting things to say about this foundation. It is a vertical dimension from degradation/debasement to uplift (maybe even transcendence). According to Haidt the lower end of the scale is related to our instinctive feelings of disgust with say corpses, body fluids and excrements, deforming diseases etc. When people come in contact with these they feel the need to get clean. I won’t go so far as to say that someone who does something purposefully disgusting is immoral, but I probably won’t want to hang out with him/her either. Really I don’t think the questions on the official survey covering this foundation were all that robust. Just because one doesn’t view purity/sanctity as a “moral” issue per say doesn’t mean that one doesn’t value this dimension.

    • I got a similar impression of the purity questions on the survey – not quite robust. One of the interesting things that Haidt has said in his lectures is that although conservatives generally score higher on purity, liberals also seem to have an equivalent that has to do with organic foods, natural foods, etc. I don’t remember any questions on that topic on the survey.

  3. I scored like a typical liberal, higher on the first two categories and lower on the last three. But I was lower than liberals and conservatives in all five categories. I’m curious what that means. Does it suggest that there is some other, unmeasured category that is more important to me?

  4. I did this a long time ago and had done a number of the quizzes, but forgot about it since then. Now I can have fun looking at what my old scores were and finishing the rest. I did the moral foundations one about a year ago and was a big 0 for purity. 1.5 on Authority, 0.8 on loyalty, and above 3 for fairness and harm. I’ve been mentioned as a health food person, which I suppose I am since I cringe at sugar foods the lunches of anyone younger than 3 and am always experimenting with wild harvested and local ingredients. So I think you are right B.T. about food type purity being missing in the purity part of the quiz. Even though I embrace being an omnivore, I think that I may get a higher purity score if food purity was incorporated.

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