Rationality, Political Orientation, and the Individualizing and Binding Moral Foundations

  • Kilian James Garvey The University of Louisiana, Monroe
  • Timothy G. Ford University of Louisiana, Monroe
Keywords: morality, rational, experiential, political orientation, disgust


Is moral cognition rational or intuitive? This paper tests two competing theories of moral cognition: rational (i.e., Piaget and Kohlberg) vs. intuitive (i.e., Shweder and Haidt) through an investigation of the relationships of each to Haidt’s pluralistic moral theory. This theory claims that, in addition to an individualizing foundation (i.e., justice and harm avoidance), morality also includes a binding foundation (i.e., group and authority deference). Three-hundred and seventy-one undergraduates from two colleges in Maine (USA) completed a survey comprised of measures of rational and intuitive cognition, political orientation, disgust sensitivity, and the individualizing and binding moral foundations. The study found that rational thinking was the strongest predictor for both of the individualizing (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity) and two of the three binding moral foundations (ingroup/loyalty and authority/respect). Political orientation and disgust sensitivity, found in past studies to be related to these two moral foundation subscales were related, but more weakly, relative to rationality.  While Haidt claims that moral cognition is intuitive, we found a more complex picture: low rational and high intuitive scores are characteristic of the binding moral foundations but the opposite is true of the individualizing moral foundations.           

Author Biographies

Kilian James Garvey, The University of Louisiana, Monroe

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

Timothy G. Ford, University of Louisiana, Monroe

Assistant Professor

College of Arts, Education, and Sciences

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