How the other side thinks

Moral Foundations Theory holds that people have 6 fundamental principles (or “foundations”) which they use to support their moral beliefs:

  1. Care for others
  2. Fairness
  3. Liberty
  4. Loyalty to your group
  5. Obedience to authority
  6. Moral sanctity or purity

Conservatives tend to believe in all 5 pillars, but are particularly strong in their belief in loyalty, obedience and moral purity. Liberals (like me) tend to have little or no belief in obedience or sanctity, and very little concern for loyalty. So in a way, conservatives are right when they see us as the morally defective ones. This leads to many unproductive conversations, where one side is literally unable to understand what the other side is even talking about.

Now, new research suggests that strong belief in loyalty, obedience and purity — known as the “binding values” — is associated with a tendency to blame the victim. And counterintuitively, the more you talk about events from the victim’s point of view, the more proponents of binding values are likely to blame the victim

2 thoughts on “How the other side thinks

  1. Interesting! I think the advice at the end, about focusing on the perpetrator rather than the victim, rings true in my experience with natural conservatives. It also occurs to me that previous research has found conservatives quicker at seeing what is wrong or incorrect in a situation than progressives. Focusing on the victim, when talking to someone who is especially good at finding what’s wrong with things, will tend to have them find something wrong in the victim’s behaviour. Focusing on the perpetrator’s behaviour avoids this, and also encourages them to find fault with the perpetrator’s behaviour (usually not too hard to do).

    Unfortunately, few people (conservative or progressive) like to think about how other people think, and tend instead to think all people should respond in the way they do. But it’s good for a few researchers to be working on it, anyway.

    1. It also occurred to me that natural conservatives tend to be less willing to make excuses for perpetrators when it comes to sentencing time, and natural progressives tend to be more willing to respond to appeals for clemency. Could be the same psychology having a similar effect, since at sentencing time the emphasis is usually on the perpetrator, rather than the victim.

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