Tools from moral psychology for measuring personal moral culture

Abstract

Moral culture can mean many things, but two major elements are a concern with moral goods and moral prohibitions. Moral psychologists have developed instruments for assessing both of these and such measures can be directly imported by sociologists. Work by Schwartz and his colleagues on values offers a well-established way of measuring moral goods, while researchers using Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory have developed validated measures of moral prohibitions. Both values and moral foundations are distributed across the social landscape in systematic, sociologically interesting ways. Although typically measured using questionnaires, we show that values and moral foundations also can be used to analyze interview, archival, or “big data.” Combining psychological and sociological tools and frameworks promises to clarify relations among existing sociological treatments of moral culture and to connect such treatments to a thriving conversation in moral psychology.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Notes

  1. 1.

    This position does not imply any kind of philosophical moral relativism. It does, however, involve a methodological relativism of the kind advocated by Abend (2008).

  2. 2.

    This is (intentionally) analogous to the distinctions Zerubavel (1997) makes among cognitive individualism, cognitive universalism, and social cognition.

  3. 3.

    See http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/attitudes/resources/measuring-morality/ for more details.

  4. 4.

    Quoted verbatim from Haidt and Graham (2009, pp. 111–112). Haidt’s (2012) most recent research suggests there might be a sixth foundation, liberty/oppression, but this has not been well integrated into the measurement yet.

  5. 5.

    All questionnaires are available at http://www.moralfoundations.org/questionnaires.

  6. 6.

    Unlike with the PVQ-21, it is not necessary here to subtract off the mean score on all items to create the scale. Where tradeoffs are a necessary part of the theory when it comes to values, it is at least theoretically possible for a person to endorse a smaller or larger range of moral prohibitions. At least according to the MFT, moral prohibitions are not a zero-sum affair. This is a question that may require more investigation.

  7. 7.

    There is no room to elaborate here, but the MFT themes of care, ingroup, and purity also play an essential role in Lamont’s The Dignity of Working Men.

  8. 8.

    For example, in his most recent work, Haidt draws extensively from Durkheim and Christian Smith’s Moral Believing Animals (2003). See Haidt et al. 2009; Haidt 2012.

References

  1. Abend, G. (2008). Two main problems in the sociology of morality. Theory and Society, 37(2), 87–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Beckers, T., Siegers, P., & Kuntz, A. (2012). Congruence and performance of value concepts in social research. Survey Research Methods, 6(1), 13–24.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1996). Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bilsky, W., Janik, M., & Schwartz, S. H. (2011). The structural organization of human values-evidence from three rounds of the European Social Survey (ESS). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(5), 759–776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Blackburn, S. (1999). Think: A compelling introduction to philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Blair-Loy, M. (2003). Competing devotions: Career and family among women executives. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Cisneros, J. D. (2008). Contaminated communities: the metaphor of “immigrant as pollutant” in media representations of immigration. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 11(4), 569–601.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. DiMaggio, P. (1997). Culture and cognition. Annual Review of Sociology, 23(1).

  9. Durkheim, É. (1964). The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fischer, C. S. (2010). Made in America: A social history of American culture and character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(5), 1029–1046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Graham, J., Nosek, B. A., Haidt, J., Iyer, R., Koleva, S., & Ditto, P. H. (2011). Mapping the moral domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(2), 366–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Greene, J. D., Morelli, S. A., Lowenberg, K., Nystrom, L. E., & Cohen, J. D. (2008). Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition, 107(3), 1144–1154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Pantheon.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Haidt, J., & Graham, J. (2007). When morality opposes justice: conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize. Social Justice Research, 20(1), 98–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Haidt, J., & Graham, J. (2009). Planet of the Durkheimians, where community, authority, and sacredness are foundations of morality. In J. T. Jost, A. C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification (pp. 371–402). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Haidt, J., Graham, J., & Joseph, C. (2009). Above and below left-right: ideological narratives and moral foundations. Psychological Inquiry, 20, 110–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hitlin, S. (2008). Moral selves, evil selves: The social psychology of conscience. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hitlin, S., & Vaisey, S. (2013). The new sociology of morality. Annual Review of Sociology, 39(1), 51–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Inbar, Y., Pizarro, D. A., & Cushman, F. (2012). Benefiting from misfortune: when harmless actions are judged to be morally blameworthy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(1), 52–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Inglehart, R., & Baker, W. E. (2000). Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values. American Sociological Review, 65(1), 19–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Joas, H. (2000). The genesis of values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Kluckhohn, C. (1951). Values and value-orientations in the theory of action: An exploration in definition and classification. In T. Parsons & E. A. Shils (Eds.), Toward a general theory of action (pp. 388–433). New York: Harper and Row.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kluckhohn, C., & Murray (Eds.). (1948). Personality: In nature, society and culture. New York: Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kohlberg, L. (1981). The philosophy of moral development: Moral stages and the idea of justice. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lamont, M. (1992). Money, morals, and manners: The culture of the French and American upper-middle class. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Lamont, M. (2000). The dignity of working men: Morality and the boundaries of race, class, and immigration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lee, S., Song, J., & Kim, Y. (2010). An empirical comparison of four text mining methods. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 1–10.

  29. Lichterman, P. (1996). The search for political community: American activists reinventing commitment. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Longest, K. C., Hitlin, S., & Vaisey, S. (2013). Position and disposition: the contextual development of human values. Social Forces, 91(4), 1499–1528.

  31. McAdams, D. P., Albaugh, M., Farber, E., Daniels, J., Logan, R. L., & Olson, B. (2008). Family metaphors and moral intuitions: how conservatives and liberals narrate their lives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(4), 978–990.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Miles, A. (2013). The (re)genesis of values: Examining the importance of values for action. Unpublished manuscript. Duke Unversity, Department of Sociology.

  33. Pennebaker, J. W., Mehl, M. R., & Niederhoffer, K. G. (2003). Psychological aspects of natural language use: our words, our selves. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 547–577.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sagi, E., & Dehghani, M. (2013). Measuring moral rhetoric in text. Social Science Computer Review, 1–13.

  35. Schnall, S., Haidt, J., Clore, G. L., & Jordan, A. H. (2008). Disgust as embodied moral judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(8), 1096–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Schwartz, S. H. (2011). Studying values: personal adventure, future directions. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(2), 307–319.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Schwartz, S. H., Cieciuch, J., Vecchione, M., Davidov, E., Fischer, R., Beierlein, C., et al. (2012). Refining the theory of basic individual values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(4), 663–688.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Smith, C. (2003). Moral, believing animals: Human personhood and culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Stets, J. E., & Carter, M. J. (2012). A theory of the self for the sociology of morality. American Sociological Review, 77(1), 120–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Swedberg, R. (2005). The Max Weber dictionary: Key words and central concepts. Stanford: Stanford Social Sciences.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Thomas, W. I. (1923). The unadjusted girl. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Thomson, I. T. (2010). Culture wars and enduring American dilemmas. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Turiel, E. (2002). The culture of morality: Social development, context, and conflict. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Vaisey, S. (2009). Motivation and justification: a dual-process model of culture in action. American Journal of Sociology, 114(6), 1675–1715.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Vaisey, S. (2010). What people want: rethinking poverty, culture, and educational attainment. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 629(1), 75–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Walder, A. G. (2009). Political sociology and social movements. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 393–412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen Vaisey.

Appendix

Appendix

Portrait Values Questionnaire (21 items)

Now we will briefly describe some people. Please listen to [or read] each description and tell me how much each person is or is not like you. (1 Very much like me; 2 Like me; 3 Somewhat like me; 4 A little like me; 5 Not like me; 6 Not like me at all.)

Conformity

She/he believes that people should do what they’re told. She/he thinks people should follow rules at all times, even when no-one is watching.

It is important to her/him always to behave properly. She/he wants to avoid doing anything people would say is wrong.

Tradition

It is important to her/him to be humble and modest. She/he tries not to draw attention to herself/himself.

Tradition is important to her/him. She/he tries to follow the customs handed down by her/his religion or her/his family.

Benevolence

It is important to her/him to be loyal to her/his friends. She/he wants to devote herself/himself to people close to her/him.

It’s very important to her/him to help the people around her/him. She/he wants to care for their well-being.

Universalism

She/he thinks it is important that every person in the world should be treated equally. She/he believes everyone should have equal opportunities in life.

It is important to her/him to listen to people who are different from her/him. Even when she/he disagrees with them, she/he still wants to understand them.

She/he strongly believes that people should care for nature. Looking after the environment is important to her/him.

Self-direction

Thinking up new ideas and being creative is important to her/him. She/he likes to do things in her/his own original way.

It is important to her/him to make her/his own decisions about what she/he does. She/he likes to be free and not depend on others.

Stimulation

She/he likes surprises and is always looking for new things to do. She/he thinks it is important to do lots of different things in life.

She/he looks for adventures and likes to take risks. She/he wants to have an exciting life.

Hedonism

Having a good time is important to her/him. She/he likes to “spoil” herself/himself.

She/he seeks every chance she/he can to have fun. It is important to her/him to do things that give her/him pleasure.

Achievement

It’s important to her/him to show her/his abilities. She/he wants people to admire what she/he does.

Being very successful is important to her/him. She/he hopes people will recognise her/his achievements.

Power

It is important to her/him to be rich. She/he wants to have a lot of money and expensive things.

It is important to her/him to get respect from others. She/he wants people to do what she/he says.

Security

It is important to her/him to live in secure surroundings. She/he avoids anything that might endanger her/his safety.

It is important to her/him that the government ensures her/his safety against all threats. She/he wants the state to be strong so it can defend its citizens.

Moral Foundations Questionnaire (20-item version)

Part 1. When you decide whether something is right or wrong, to what extent are the following considerations relevant to your thinking? Please rate each statement using this scale:

figurea

Part 2. Please read the following sentences and indicate your agreement or disagreement:

figureb

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vaisey, S., Miles, A. Tools from moral psychology for measuring personal moral culture. Theor Soc 43, 311–332 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-014-9221-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Measurement
  • Moral psychology
  • Morality
  • Values