Although cultural values generally prescribe open-mindedness, open-minded cognition systematically varies across individuals and situations. According to the Virtuous Dogmatism Hypothesis, social norms dictate when moral standards are violated, a relatively dogmatic, closed-minded orientation is warranted. As a consequence, situations that engender perceptions of moral violations will elicit a more closed-minded cognitive style.
Today’s modern world affords many benefits, one of which is the ability to have near instantaneous interactions with groups and cultures other than our own. Though advantageous in many situations, one challenge for these groups is navigating what they perceive to be right and wrong in a cooperative manner despite having different modes of morality. Moral foundations theory holds all groups use the same moral foundations to guide their judgments and decision making, but there has been little research on how the perception of these foundations differ within and between groups. Thus, some of my work has examined how moral foundations operate from a group perspective, and potential outgroup moderators of moral foundations were examined.
To furhter probe the differnces between individual and group judgments, I utilized the trolley paradigm. The trolley problem has been used in moral psychology for its ability to capture both cognitive and emotional approaches to moral judgment. In the switch dilemma, a runaway trolley is headed for five workers who will be killed if it proceeds on its present course (Thomson, 1985). To save them, one must throw a switch, turning the trolley so it will kill one person instead of five. Research shows most people find this acceptable (e.g., Greene, Sommerville, Nystrom, Darley, & Cohen, 2001). In the footbridge dilemma, a trolley again threatens to kill five people. This time, the actor is on a footbridge next to a large stranger (Thomson, 1985). To save them, one must push the stranger off the bridge, onto the tracks. This will kill the stranger, but save the five workers. Research shows most people find this unacceptable (e.g., Greene et al., 2001).
- Winget, J.R. & Tindale, R.S. (2018). Stereotypic morality: The effects of group membership on moral foundations. Submitted for review.
- Trolley moral foundations preprints coming soon!