FEB 16

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9: FEB 16


  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality" pp. 483-493
  • Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)" (23)

Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)"

  • Ring of Gyges - Glaucon got it right.
  • Key principle for ethical society: "make sure that everyone's reputation is on the line all the time" (even the babies in the room are keeping track!)
  • Functionalism in psychology applied to morality - What does morality do? (vs. ...)
  • Tetlock: accountability research
  • Exploratory vs. Confirmatory thought
  • Conditions promoting exploratory thought (def: evenhanded consideration of alt POVs)
  • 1) knowing ahead of time that you'll be called to account; [so, transparency!]
  • 2) not knowing what the audience thinks;
  • 3) believing that the audience is well informed and interested in truth or accuracy.
  • Section 1: Obsessed with polls
  • Leary's research on self-esteem importance- "sociometer" -- non-conscious level mostly.
  • Section 2: Confirmation bias and exploratory thought
  • Confirmation bias (def: tendency to seek and interp. evidence to confirm our view)
  • Wasson again -- number series
  • Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
  • David Perkins research on reason giving - IQ only predicts ability to generate "my-side" arguments. Interesting criticism of education here!
  • Section 3: We're really good at finding rationalizations for things.
  • more examples of people behaving as Glaucon would have predicted. Members of parliament, :*Plausible deniability - Ariely, matrix-cheating research - Predictably Irrational
  • Section 4: Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it?
  • When we want to believe something we ask the first question, when we don't want to believe something, we ask the second question.
  • "Motivated reasoning" - 84ff.
  • Section 5: Application to political beliefs: Partisan Brains
  • Does self interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences? Not so much self-interest. We are groupish. (Interesting implications for democracies governed by political parties.)
  • Drew Westen's fMRI research on strongly partisan individuals. We feel threat to dissonant information (like hypocrisy or lying) about our preferred leader, but no threat, or even pleasure, at the problems for the opponent. the partisan brain. Difference in brain activation did not seem to be rational/cog (dlPFC). bit of dopamine after threat passes. (Important point: cog/emo dissonance is painful! -except for good philosophers.)
  • Research suggests that ethicists are not more ethical than others. (89 Schwitzgebel)
  • Mercier and Sperber. Why Do Humans Reason?
  • Good thinking as an emergent property. individual neurons vs. networks. analogy to social intelligence.
  • Statement, 90, on H's view of political life in light of this way of theorizing. read and discuss. introduce term "social epistemology"

Small Group discussion

  • We all have examples from social life of people who are more or less interested in exploratory thought and holding themselves accountable to external information and "their side" arguments.
  • Share examples of the verbal and non-verbal behaviors of people who are not very good at exploratory thought and inviting diversity of viewpoint in social settings (other people, of course). Then, try to consider or recall the behaviors of people who do the opposite.
  • Make a list: What are some verbal or non-verbal behaviors that you can use to indicate to others' that you are open to having your views examined? What have you noticed about the practices of people who are good at generating viewpoint diversity in social settings?

Sapolsky. Behave. C 13, 483-493

Rough topics:

  • Origins of Social/Moral Intuitions in Babies and Monkeys and Chimps
  • More infant morality:
  • weigh commission more than ommision - infants track commission better than ommission, as in adults.
  • prosociality - helper puppet studies,
  • punishment - sweets go to helper puppets
  • tracks secondary punishment - secondary friends study - Babies prefer secondary puppets who were nice to nice puppets and punished bad puppets.
  • Capuchin monkey study (deWaal) - "monkey fairness". (demonstrated also with macaques monkeys, crows, ravens, and dogs), details on 485. google "crows solving puzzles" or "elephants solving puzzles" animals are much more intelligent than we have historically understood.
  • Chimp version of Ultimatum Game - in the deWaal version, chimps tend toward equity unless the proposer can give the token directly to the grape dispensers. 486
  • "other regarding preferences" (Does the animal show awareness of other's preferences?) in monkeys, but not in chimps! Keep this in mind the next time you are thinking about whether to cooperate with a chimp.
  • some evidence of "solidarity" in one inequity study the advantaged monkey (the one who gets grapes) stops working as well.
  • Interesting comment: human morality transcends species boundary. starts before us.
  • Exemptions for testifying against relatives and vmPFC patients who will trade relatives in Trolley situations.
  • vmPFC damaged patient will sacrifice a relative to save four non-relatives.
  • Interesting note about criminal law exemptions.
  • Neuroscience of the Trolley Problem and "Intuition discounting"
  • dlPFC in level condition and vmPFC in bridge condition.
  • Greene's hypothesis: not so much because it is "up close and personal" as we speculated, but in lever condition the killing of the one is a side-effect. In bridge condition, its because of the killing. Different kinds of intentionality. Ok for most people if you push someone out of the way on your way to the lever. Not intentional killing.
  • Loop condition -- you know you have to kill the person on the side track, should be like bridge condition, but test subjects match lever condition, roughly.
  • Hypothesis: Intuitions are local; heavily discounted for time and space. (Think of other examples of this.) Stories in which your reaction to something changes when you learn where it happens.
  • Related point about proximity - leave money around vs. cokes. Cokes disappear. One step from money and the rationalization is easier. (Also in Ariely research) Singer's pool scenario vs. sending money for absolute poverty relief.
  • priming study on cheating involving bankers. 492 - shows "intuition discounting" when primed to think about work identity. more cheating the more primed about "role" - "It's not me"...
  • "But this circumstance is different..."
  • Under stress subjects make more egoistic, rationalizing judgments regarding emoitonal moral dilemmas.
  • [this is not mentioned in the text, but it is what he is talking about: the Fundamental Attribution Error - neuro-evidence for the Fundamental Attribution Error [1]
  • we judge ourselves by internal motives and others by external actions. Our failings/successes elicit shame/pride others elicit anger or indignation and emulation (envy?). The FAE suggests that we explain our own failures more generously than the failures of others. We offer ourselves excuses (inner lawyer) but are biased toward inferring bad intent from others.

Point on Method

  • A way of framing the research we are reviewing (and some we are not): Three Frames:
  • 1. Differences and Structures in our individual psychology for expression moral behaviors.(Evolved psychology.)
  • 2. Differences that emerge from the interactions of individuals in a society or culture. (Evolved social behaviors.)
  • 3. Differences between cultures, including, for example the remarkable emergence of WEIRD culture. (Joe Henrich, The Weirdest People on Earth) -- mention relevance for happiness. (Culturally evolved cognition and behaviors.)
  • Now that we are piling on the more research results, we should make sure our research strategy in the course makes sense: So far:
  • 1. The evolution of social behavior takes us deep into the nature of morality, but it is incomplete for various reasons. (big reasony brains make free moves (like "rights"!) much of the evo machinery needs to be "deployed" to work, no answers from evolution to today's problems.
  • 2. Reason and intuition (rider and elephant) characterize our individual moral experience. We are still filling in our picture of reasoning in morals.
  • 3. There are important asymmetries in our moral experience: Paradox of Moral Experience, and, today, the Fundamental Attribution Error. (These, and other research results in this unit, hold profound "practical lessons" for improving moral deliberation and avoiding moral polarization (in which groups not only disagree, but see each other as morally inferior).)
  • Moral reasoning as a means of finding truth vs. furthering social agendas. Paradox of Moral Experience: We experience our morality the first way, but when we look objectively at groups, it's more like the second way.