People love moral statements they believe; hate those they disbelieve

Monica Bucciarelli and Phil Johnson-Laird have several new articles on deontic and moral reasoning. First, they published a paper and a reply to comments in the Italian legal journal, Materiali Per Una Storia Della Cultura Giuridica. The abstract of their paper is here:

This article reports psychological experiments that corroborate the following ac- count. Deontic reasoning relies on mental models of possibilities in a deontic context. Because these models represent what is permissible rather than impermissible, individuals commit predictable fallacies in reasoning from certain sorts of deontic premise. Contrary to a tradition going back to Hume, humans reason in order to make moral judgments. Their inferences can be rapid, intuitive, and based on a single model, but they can also be slow, deliberative, and based on alternative models, as when they resolve a dilemma. Humans have an innate system of basic emotions, which is inherited from our evolutionary ancestors. These emotions are elicited by primitive cognitions that are too crude to distinguish between causes and enabling conditions. The distinction calls for a deliberative inference so subtle that some learned jurists have not realized that the two concepts differ in meaning. Unlike factual propositions, moral propositions have a striking relation with emotions. People love those moral propositions that they believe, and hate those that they disbelieve. The effect can be elicited from the mere substitution of the word ought for is in an assertion. In sum, a comprehensive theory of deontics must account for meaning, reasoning, and emotion.

And the abstract of their reply to comments is here:

This article replies to the criticisms of Ratti, and of Brigaglia and Celano, of the model theory of deontics. It argues that the theory is consistent and that logic is an implausible basis for human reasoning.

Finally, Bucciarelli and Johnson-Laird recently published a paper describing emotions and moral reasoning in Acta Psychologica; the abstract is here:

A dual-process theory postulates that belief and emotions about moral assertions can affect one another. The present study corroborated this prediction. Experiments 1, 2 and 3 showed that the pleasantness of a moral assertion – from loathing it to loving it – correlated with how strongly individuals believed it, i.e., its subjective probability. But, despite repeated testing, this relation did not occur for factual assertions. To create the correlation, it sufficed to change factual assertions, such as, “Advanced countries are democracies,” into moral assertions, “Advanced countries should be democracies”. Two further experiments corroborated the two-way causal relations for moral assertions. Experiment 4 showed that recall of pleasant memories about moral assertions increased their believability, and that the recall of unpleasant memories had the opposite effect.Experiment 5 showed that the creation of reasons to believe moral assertions increased the pleasantness of the emotions they evoked, and that the creation of reasons to disbelieve moral assertions had the opposite effect.Hence, emotions can change beliefs about moral assertions; and reasons can change emotions about moral assertions. We discuss the implications of these results for alternative theories of morality.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.