Is it fair? Textual effects on the salience of moral foundations

TitleIs it fair? Textual effects on the salience of moral foundations
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSagi, E
EditorGunzelmann, G, Howes, A, Tenbrink, T, Davelaar, EJ
Conference NameProceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society

Many of the important decisions we make have moral implications. Moral Foundations Theory (Haidt & Joseph, 2004) identifies 5 distinct styles of moral reasoning that may be applied to such decisions. This paper explores how reading text that emphasizes one of these styles might affect our reasoning. After participants read a series of tweets that emphasized the Fairness/Cheating foundation they exhibited an increased reliance on this style compared to when they read tweets emphasizing the Care/Harm foundation. This affected participants’ answers to a questionnaire designed to measure the perceived importance of the different foundations, as well as in their rating of the foundations evident in other tweets. Interestingly, this effect was short lived and was not observed for the Care/Harm foundation. These results suggest that exposure to the moral reasoning of others might temporarily influence what moral arguments we are likely to accept and employ.