Study: Moral judgements of Conservatives are ‘highly insensitive to consequentialist considerations’

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Guest post by at Freak Out Nation.

There’s a noticeable difference between the thinking of liberals and Conservatives, and a new study finds that “the moral judgments of religious individuals and political conservatives are highly insensitive to consequentialist considerations.” In total, the group by Jared Piaza of the University of Pennsylvania and Paulo Sousa of Queen’s University Belfast, did three studies.

GOPVsLiberals

The study:

  Three studies demonstrated that the moral judgments of religious individuals and political conservatives are highly insensitive to consequentialist (i.e., outcome-based) considerations. In Study 1, both religiosity and political conservatism predicted a resistance toward consequentialist thinking concerning a range of transgressive acts, independent of other relevant dispositional factors (e.g., disgust sensitivity). Study 2 ruled out differences in welfare sensitivity as an explanation for these findings. In Study 3, religiosity and political conservatism predicted a commitment to judging “harmless” taboo violations morally impermissible, rather than discretionary, despite the lack of negative consequences rising from the act. Furthermore, non-consequentialist thinking style was shown to mediate the relationship religiosity/conservatism had with impermissibility judgments, while intuitive thinking style did not. These data provide further evidence for the influence of religious and political commitments in motivating divergent moral judgments, while highlighting a new dispositional factor, non-consequentialist thinking style, as a mediator of these effects.

PsyPost reports:

The study by Jared Piazza of the University of Pennsylvania and Paulo Sousa of Queen’s University Belfast, which included a total of 688 participants, found religious individuals and political conservatives consistently invoked deontological ethics. In other words, they judged the morality of actions based on a universal rule such as, “You should not kill.” Political liberals, on the other hand, consistently invoked consequentialist ethics, meaning they judged the morality of actions based on their positive or negative outcomes.

“Does being religious or being conservative promote a rule-based ethic or does having a rule-based ethic promote religiosity and/or conservatism?” Piazza told PsyPost. “This question is difficult to answer definitively without running a longitudinal study, since you cannot really manipulate religious orientation, or being in possession of a deontological orientation, and then look at the consequences.”

(my bold)

The participants in the study provided their moral position on killing, assisted suicide, torture, incest, cannibalism, malicious gossip, stealing, lying, deception, betrayal, breaking a promise, breaking the law, and treason. The researchers discovered that religious individuals and political conservatives showed a “general insensitivity to consequences.”

For instance, religious individuals and political conservatives tended to say that lying was never acceptable under any circumstances, while political liberals tended to say that lying was permissible or even obligatory if it resulted in greater good than bad.

There was a notable exception. When it came to torture, Piazza described American conservatives as “full-blown consequentialists.” But the same could not be said of religious individuals.

“In other words, political conservatives found torture acceptable when it brought about a greater good, but religious individuals found torture less acceptable even when it was a means to a greater good,” he told PsyPost. “Past research by Kevin Carlsmith and Avani Sood have shown that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view torture in the context of military interrogation as a form of retributive justice (i.e., the detainee ‘deserves’ to be punished because of their involvement in previous criminal activity), which may promote their more permissive stance towards torture, at least in this context. So one possibility is that conservatives in our study conceived of torture in the context of harsh military interrogations (i.e., it was the primary form of torture that came readily to mind), and this is what explains their consequentialist stance towards it.”

The study, although not resulting in anything shocking, explains Republican support for torture, opposition to equality, immigration reform and a host of other issues.

I just posted excerpts but it’s an interesting read in its entirety.

Image: USW.

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  • DC Madman

    Not all readers of this blog have college level reading skills. I get the gist of the article but have little understanding of what the writer's saying. In layman's terms please.

  • David G

    Nice work, Anomoly. DG