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Valar Qringaomis

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Sacrificing one black man to save the lives of a hundred white men

The motivated use of moral principles
Eric Luis Uhlmann, David A. Pizarro, David Tannenbaum and Peter H. Ditto

"Not only do we believe that our moral judgments are correct, but we believe that (unlike our attitudes toward, say, chocolate ice cream) everyone else should agree with us. This has not only been pointed out by philosophers as a key component of moral beliefs (e.g., Hare, 1952), but also confirmed by psychologists as an important feature of lay moral intuition (Haidt, Rosenberg, & Hom, 2003; Skitka, Bauman, & Sargis, 2005; Turiel, 1998). However, a problem arises when defending moral judgments. Defending a moral judgment by appealing to our subjective preferences (e.g., “abortion is wrong because I don’t like it”) is unpersuasive, inasmuch it fails to provide a compelling reason why others should agree. Yet, as some philosophers have argued, moral claims seem to lack an obvious set of objective criteria to demonstrate their truth (Mackie, 1977). These features make disagreement in the moral domain a tricky problem (Pizarro & Uhlmann, 2006; Sturgeon, 1994; Sunstein, 2005).

What individuals often do, however, is defend a specific moral judgment by appealing to a general moral principle... we sought to demonstrate the motivated use of moral principles by comparing the judgments of political liberals and conservatives to scenarios that either meshed or conflicted with their political leanings...

Of greatest interest for us were the items assessing the moral relevance of race and nationality. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of participants (87%) reported that these features were morally irrelevant. Furthermore, none of the item responses were reliably correlated with political orientation at the p < .05 level, suggesting that liberals and more conservative participants were not in strong disagreement about whether such features were morally relevant or irrelevant... Participants received one of two scenarios involving an individual who has to decide whether or not to throw a large man in the path of a trolley (described as large enough that he would stop the progress of the trolley) in order to prevent the trolley from killing 100 innocent individuals trapped in a bus. Half of the participants received a version of the scenario where the agent could choose to sacrifice an individual named “Tyrone Payton” to save 100 members of the New York Philharmonic, and the other half received a version where the agent could choose to sacrifice “Chip Ellsworth III” to save 100 members of the Harlem Jazz Orchestra. In both scenarios the individual decides to throw the person onto the trolley tracks. While we did not provide specific information about the race of the individuals in the scenario, we reasoned that Chip and Tyrone were stereotypically associated with White American and Black American individuals respectively, and that the New York Philharmonic would be assumed to be majority White, and the Harlem Jazz Orchestra would be assumed to be majority Black... Liberals (defined as 1 SD below the mean; Aiken & West, 1991) were more likely to endorse a consequentialist justification when the victim had a stereotypically White name than when the victim had a stereotypically Black name, b = −.40, SE = .12, t = 3.27, p = .002. More conservative participants (1 SD above the mean) did not give reliably different endorsements of consequentialism across scenario versions, b = .01, SE = .13, t = .09, p = .93... We also asked participants in the community sample if they would give different judgments had the victim been of a different race. The overwhelming majority (92% of participants) said they would not, and responses to this counterfactual question did not vary by scenario, χ2 < .05, or by participants’ political orientation, r = .10, p = .40. When asked directly, most participants stated that race was irrelevant to their moral judgments... Antipathy toward anti-Black prejudice played a greater role in liberals’ judgments. A recent meta-analysis by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski and Sulloway (2003) indicated that one of the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives lies in conservatives’ greater tolerance for social inequality. Research on the moral foundations underlying liberal and conservative ideologies also suggests that fairness concerns are particularly acute for political liberals (Haidt & Graham, 2007), and that race is likely a key symbol evoking these concerns in contemporary America. As such, it is possible that our scenarios describing the sacrifice of a Black man simply held more motivational power for liberals than for comparatively conservative participants. Our Chip-Tyrone manipulation presented liberals with choices likely to alert their sensitivities to issues of racial inequality, and they responded more negatively when asked to sacrifice a Black life than a White life. Comparatively conservative participants, even if not overtly prejudiced, may simply have lacked these acute sensitivities regarding inequality, and responded in a more evenhanded fashion as a result. Regardless of the source of motivation, however, these results suggest that moral principles generally held to apply across situations can be selectively applied in order to fit a desired moral judgment... In their open responses to the normative question concerning race, every participant indicated that race should not be used as a factor in making such judgments. This was exemplified by statements such as “No, race is unimportant in these matters unless you are a racist” “No, race should have no influence on whether or not one should be sacrificed. This decision should be purely based on means to the end goal” and “No… no one’s life should be sacrificed intentionally, no matter what race they are.” In sum, Study 2 provided additional evidence that political orientation contributes to a selective use of moral principles... The disturbing implication of recent research, however, is that we have no easy way of verifying whether the principles we passionately invoke for our moral judgments are truly guiding our judgment in the unbiased fashion we think they are."
In other words, Liberals are racist because they favour black people over white people (though somehow this is spun as Conservatives being covertly 'prejudiced' despite their being evenhanded).

This is a lot more reliable as a measure of bias than the Implicit Association Test.

(One of the studies shows that conservatives endorse collateral damage more when the innocents are Iraqis than when they are Americans and uses this to conclude that conservatives are also biased, but that is not a fair comparison since we are looking at American troops attacking Iraqi insurgents vs Iraqi insurgents attacking American troops - which is not an Apple-Apple comparison)
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