Current evolutionary theories of morality hold that the adaptations that underlie moral judgment and behavior function to deliver benefits (or prevent harm) to others. I’ll discuss several lines of research built around an alternative view. In particular, I’ll present evidence for the view that people adopt moral positions based on calculations of their self-interest. In an experimental study, subjects’ moral evaluations of different choices in an economic decision making context depends on which choice benefits them. In a second body of work, I review how people’s political views change depending on non-obvious factors that shift peo- ple’s perception of where their own interests lie. Finally, a third line of work speaks to the possibility that people’s political attitudes are derived not from their party affiliation or their ideology, but rather from calculations of their inter- ests surrounding the way they live their lives. These results suggest that far from moral views’ being directed at altruism, they are directed at achieving one’s goals over various time spans.
A Rock Ethics Institute Co-Sponsored Event presented by Robert Kurzban, Rasmuson Chair of Economics, University of Alasks Anchorage.