Sociocentrism vs Individualism Part 2

Posted by Beetle B. on Sun 28 August 2016

To tackle Turiel’s concern that the “harmless” stories could be interpreted as harmful, Haidt decided to do a similar story, but added a twist: The respondents were directly asked whether they thought any harm was done.

  • 2 cities in Brazil (Porto Allegre (strong European population) and Recife (strong native or non-European population)), and also in Philadelphia
  • In all cities, both upper and lower classes
  • In all cities, both children and adults

A total of 12 groups.

His results supported Shweder. Typically in the US they differentiated between morality and social conventions (note: US is individualistic).

The upper class Brazilians were similar to Americans.

Lower class Brazilians behaved like Orissans. Not wearing a school uniform was morally wrong. As wrong as the swing pusher.

In general, Porto Allegrens moralized more than Philadelphians, and Recifeans moralized more than Porto Allegrens.

In general, lower class people moralized more.

In general, children moralized more than adults.

The social class effect was much stronger than the geographical effect. Well educated people in all 3 cities were more alike than their lower class neighbors. He didn’t need to go all the way to Brazil to disprove Turiel/Kohlberg.

When controlling for the responses to being explicitly asked whether the subjects thought any harm was done, the separation between upper and lower class (or individualistic vs sociocentric) widened.

So what is causing this? Two hypotheses:

  • Cultural influence
  • Innate in humans (somewhat genetic)

Inventing Disgust

In Haidt’s study, to justify disgust, many subjects would invent victims! 38% of the times they claimed someone was harmed. Many were post hoc justifications. The condemnation of the act would be swift, but the justification required much thought, and was often half hearted or even apologetic.

When pressured, a common response was:

I know it is wrong, but I cannot think of a reason why!”. This is referred to being morally dumbfounded. [1]

Subjects were reasoning to explain their own discomfort, perhaps to make themselves feel better.

This was a strong indication that reason is utilized to justify morals, and that morals do not arise from reason.

[1]I have witnessed this oh-so-many-times. While a student, I would often pose interesting scenarios to people I knew, and they would frequently condemn it. But when pressured to explain why, a huge display of mental gymnastics resulted. I always felt that they had a very strong gut reaction to the scenario, and that was the source of the condemnation - not any rules in any framework that they subscribed to.

tags : trm, morality, Haidt