FEB 23

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11: FEB 23 (Heavy reading day)


  • Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality" (17)
  • Henrich, Joe. Prelude and Chapter 1, "WEIRD Psychology" from The WEIRDEST People in the World (37)

Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

  • WEIRD morality is the morality of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic cultures
  • just as likely to be bothered by taboo violations, but more likely to set aside feelings of disgust and allow violations
  • only group with majority allowing chicken story violation.
  • "the weirder you are the more likely you are to see the world in terms of separate objects, rather than relationships" (Analytic vs. Holistic in Henrich C1) "sociocentric" moralities vs. individualistic moralities; Enlightenment moralities of Kant and Mill are rationalist, individualist, and universalist.
  • survey data on East/West differences in sentence completion: "I am..." (also in Henrich C1)
  • framed-line task 97
  • Kantian and Millian ethical thought is rationalist, rule based, and universalist. Just the ethical theory you would expect from the culture. (Hmm. So now we discover that some of our "tools" are culturally specific. Is this a problem? Should we take a page from Mother Meera? Mention Happiness and Wisdom classes.)
  • A 3 channel moral matrix - or, How should we theorize (locate) our view in the larger world of human moralities?
  • Schweder's anthropology: ethics of autonomy, community, divinity 99-100 - gloss each...
  • claims Schweder's theory predicts responses on taboo violation tests, is descriptively accurate.
  • ethic of divinity: body as temple vs. playground. (Note: not religiosity or even spirituality, but often is.) Vegetarian eating is "clean" eating, not just because of fewer pathogens.
  • Vertical dimension to values. Explains reactions to flag desecration, piss Christ, thought exp: desecration of liberal icons. (Note connection to contemporary conflicts, such as the Charlie Hebdot massacre.)
  • Making Sense of Moral/Cultural Difference
  • Haidt's Bhubaneswar experience: diverse (intense) continua of moral values related to purity. (opposite of disgust). Confusing at first, but notice that he started to like his hosts (elephant) and then started to think about how their values might work. Stop and think about how a mind might create this. Detail about airline passenger.
  • Theorizing with Paul Rozin on the right model for thinking about moral foundations: "Our theory, in brief" (103) - most societies see a vertical dimension in social space. man who robs a bank vs. child sex traffickers
  • American politics often about sense of "sacrilege", not just about defining rights (autonomy). Not just harm, but types of moral disgust.
  • Stepping out of the Matrix: H's metaphor for seeing his own cultural moral values as more "contingent" than before, when it felt like the natural advocacy of what seem true and right. Reports growing self awareness of liberal orientation of intellectual culture in relation to Schweder's view. Social conservatives made more sense to him after studying in India.

Small Group Discussion

  • Discussion questions:
  • Does it make sense to talk about "stepping out of a matrix"? Is this a temporary thing? What value might it have in your experience? Are there sometimes reasons to decline the invitation to step out of your matrix?
  • Do you have a parallel story to Haidt's? (Mention travel experiences, living in different places, even just coming to Gonzaga.)

Henrich, "WEIRD Psychology," from The Weirdest People on Earth"

  • Prelude: Your Brain has been modified
  • Example of how reading alters brains. "Literacy thus provides an example of how culture can change people biologically independent of any genetic differences."
  • Literacy in Western Europe - Protestantism requires literacy. "sola scriptura"
  • Showing causal relationship with "quasi-experimental" method "For every 100 km traveled from Wittenberg, percentage of Protestants dropped 10%. Like a "dosage".
  • Also seen in literacy rates of Catholic and Prot missionaries to Africa: Protestant missions produce more literacy.
  • Chapter 1: WEIRD Psychology
  • WEIRD: individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. Tends to look for universal categories, analytic. patient, takes plesure in hard work, sticks to imparial rules or principles, guilt vs. shame
  • Major Claim: WEIRD psychology is a product of 600-1000 years of the Catholic Church's modification of our psychology through its "Marriage and Family Plan".
  • Research
  • "Who Am I? task by culture 25
  • Mapping the Individualism Complex.
  • Examples of more kin based cutlures on MR: Might be obligated to avenge a murder, prohibited from marrying a stranger. Contrast on p. 28. In the Ind. World "everyone is shopping for better relationships." (Hofstede's scale for measuring ind/socio)
  • Note Caveats to this research on p. 31.
  • Cultivating the WEIRD self
  • Research showing Inds. cultivate "consistency across relationships" vs. kin-based "consistency within relationships.
  • Dispositionalism - seeing people's behavior as anchored impersonal traits that influence actions across contexts. The Fundamental Attribution Error (33) is a bias of WEIRD people.
  • Guilt vs. Shame
  • Conformity - Solom Asch's experiments in which confederates give incorrect answers to test conformity.
  • "Discounting" as a measure of patience
  • Impersonal Honesty -- UN Diplomats research, Impersonal Honesty Game (results at p. 44)
  • Universalism and Non-relationalism -- Passengers Dilemma
  • Trusting Strangers - GTQ instrument. impersonal trust vs. trust in relationship based networks.
  • Impersonal prosociality - correlated with national wealth, better government, less corruption, faster innovation.
  • Obsessed with intentions -- Bob/Rob and Andy story. Barrett and Laurence research. Indep. research on Japanese (less focused on intentions)
  • Analytic vs. Holistic thinking. Triad Task. abstract rule-based vs. functional relationship. Possible that even some of the Mapuche's "analytic" answers had holistic reasoning. pig/dog pig/husks. Also, attention and memory studies: East Asians remember background/context better that WEIRD people. Americans track the center of attention.
  • WEIRD also have great endowment effect, overestimate our talents, self-enhance, enjoy making choices.
  • Summary table on p. 56. See bot of p. 57 for a look ahead at the argument he is making about the cultural influence of the Catholic Church.

Point on Method

  • A way of framing the research we are reviewing: Three Frames:
  • 1. Evolving Psychology Differences and Structures in our individual psychology for expression moral behaviors. Intuitions vs. Reasoning. And more! Life experiences shape our identities...
  • 2. Evolving Social Behaviors Differences that emerge from the interactions of individuals in a society or culture. The 'population phenomena' of political difference (Hibbing). But so much more! Kin! Friends! Fellow citizens.
  • 3. Evolving Cultural and Cognitive Psychology Differences between cultures, including, for example the remarkable emergence of WEIRD culture. (Joe Henrich, The Weirdest People on Earth) literacy and the brain, protestanism as a driver of culture, catholic church as driver of cultural ideas (the Marriage and Family Plan, impersonal honesty and sociality, etc.)
  • 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 reasoning brains make free moves (like "rights"!) much of the evolutionary machinery needs to be "deployed" to work, no answers from evolution to today's problems, and there are other layers.
  • 2. Because of this incompleteness, we need to use some of our theories and intuitions, and now inter-cultural knowledge, to ask this question: "Are our moral values and moral systems working well for us?" How will we find standards for answering this question in a world governed by evolution and flux?" To be continued...

Paradox of Moral Experience

  • The Paradox of Moral Experience involves a conflict between two "standpoints" for seeing values. 1 and 2 below:
  • 1. We experience our morality as beliefs we hold true. They are compelling to us in a way that leads us to expect others to find them compelling. We can be surprised or frustrated that others do not see our reasons as compelling. From this standpoint, our moral truths feel necessary rather than contingent.
  • Examples: "What's wrong with those (lib/con)s, don't they see X/Y?" "How can anyone think it's ok to act like that?")
  • 2. But, when we study morality as a functional system that integrates people who see and interpret the world differently, it is less surprising that we often do not find each others' reasoning or choices compelling. We can also see how groups of people might develop "values cultures" that diverge on entire sets of values (or, "cooperative toolkits") while still solving some of the same underlying problems that all human societies face. From this standpoint, the functions of morality are universal, but the specific strategies that individuals and cultures take seem very contingent. But, knowing this, why don’t we experience our own values as contingent?
  • Examples: Sociocentric / Individualist cultures, Specific histories that groups experience (Us vs. Europe vs. ...)
  • Roughly, 1 is normal experience, when you are "in your head". 2 reflects an attempt, through knowledge, to get a "third person" experience, to "get out of your head".