Conservative vs. Liberals on Morality
From an article by Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham in Social Justice Research:
Suppose your next-door neighbor puts up a large sign in her front yard that says "Cable television will destroy society." You ask her to explain the sign, and she replies, "Cables are an affront to the god Thoth. They radiate theta waves, which make people sterile." You ask her to explain how a low voltage, electrically-shielded coaxial cable can make anyone sterile, but she changes the subject. The DSM-IV defines a delusion as "a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary" (APA, DSM-IV, 1994, p.765). Your neighbor is clearly delusional and possibly schizophrenic. She is responding to forces, threats, and agents that simply do not exist.
But now suppose another neighbor puts up a large sign in his front yard that says "Gay marriage will destroy society." You ask him to explain the sign, and he replies, "Homosexuality is an abomination to God. Gay marriage will undermine marriage, the institution upon which our society rests." You ask him to explain how allowing two people to marry who are in love and of the same sex will harm other marriages, but he changes the subject. Because your neighbor is not alone in his beliefs, he does not meet the DSM-IV criteria for delusion. However, you might well consider your homophobic neighbor almost as delusional, and probably more offensive, than your cable-fearing neighbor. He, too, seems to be responding to forces, threats, and agents that do not exist, only in this case his widely shared beliefs have real victims: the millions of men and women who are prohibited from marrying the people they love, and who are treated unjustly in matters of family law and social prestige. If only there were some way to break through your neighbor's delusions—some moral equivalent of Thorazine—which would help him see the facts as you see them.
But what makes you so certain that you see the moral world as it really is? If you are reading Social Justice Research, it is likely that you care a great deal about issues related to justice, fairness, equality, and victimization. It is also likely that you don't care as much about patriotic displays, respect for authority, or chastity. In fact, these last three topics might even make you feel uneasy, evoking associations with political conservatism, the religious right, and other movements that limit the autonomy and free expression of the individual.
Our thesis in this article is that there are five psychological foundations of morality, which we label as harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Cultures vary on the degree to which they build virtues on these five foundations. As a first approximation,political liberals value virtues based on the first two foundations, while political conservatives value virtues based on all five. A consequence of this thesis is that justice and related virtues (based on the fairness foundation) make up half of the moral world for liberals, while justice-related concerns make up only one fifth of the moral world for conservatives.