Here’s a fascinating graduate project about moral intuitions, drawing heavily upon advances made by Jonathan Haidt. It is titled, Prejudicial Attitudes toward Homosexuals: The Competing Roles of Moral Reasoning and the Moral Emotion of Disgust. The author is John Terrizzi, and he is about to finish an M.A. in experimental psychology.
We found that individuals who were high in moral reasoning were less likely to hold prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals and that individuals who were sensitive to disgust were more likely to exhibit prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals.
More importantly, our results showed that the moral emotion of disgust overwhelms moral reasoning such that individuals who are high in both moral reasoning and disgust ressemble those who are low in moral reasoning in regard to their prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals.
As if that weren’t enough, his results also connect moral psychology to more diverse political attitudes:
Additionally, people who were high in disgust were more likely to be anti-abortion, more likely to want a stricter immigration policy, more likely to support the war in Iraq, and less likely to support terminal patients’ right to die.
Immigration policy? That’s a surprise. What is its connection to moral disgust, and how can this be explained? More generally, why does conservative ideology seem to attract people with a psychological disposition to moral disgust?
This is exciting stuff, and I hope Terrizzi publishes his research in an open access venue where it can get a wide audience.