Understanding the role of dispositional and situational threat sensitivity in our moral judgments

Journal of Moral Education 42 (3):383-397 (2013)


Previous research has identified different moral judgments in liberals and conservatives. While both care about harm/fairness (?individualizing? foundations), conservatives emphasize in-group/authority/purity (?binding? foundations) more than liberals. Thus, some argue that conservatives have a more complex morality. We suggest an alternative view?that consistent with conservatism as ?motivated social cognition?, binding foundation activation satisfies psychological needs for social structure/security/certainty. Accordingly, we found that students who were dispositionally threat-sensitive showed stronger binding foundation activation, and that conservatives are more dispositionally threat-sensitive than liberals. We also found that in a heightened threat situation liberals (especially social liberals) showed increased binding foundation activation. These results support the view that the binding foundations function differently in our moral cognition than the individualizing foundations

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