Dec 20, 2016
Jan 31, 2017 10:16 AM
When things go wrong, people ask, “Who made it happen?” “Who was responsible?” and often, “Who will pay?” That is, moral judgment engages causal cognition. How much of this process is influenced by higher-level factors such as people’s moral values and political ideology, and how much is influenced by stimulus-bound factors, such as the language used to describe the event? This talk will cover research combining individual differences measures with vignette-based and psycholinguistics tasks. Collectively, the research demonstrates: (1) moral values aimed at protecting group cohesiveness predict a shift in attributions of blame to victims; (2) altering the focus of language can reduce victim blame; and (3) values and ideology influence extraction of causal relationships from the most basic event descriptions. That participants’ behavior across these tasks systematically maps onto beliefs about the nature of right and wrong indicates that studying language can bring precision to our understanding of the unruly domain of morality, and also that our understanding of language is incomplete without consideration of moral psychology.