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April 16, 2012

Moral DNA

Via Dan Collins, an interesting Monday time waster:

In the battle for the moral high ground, it seems we have a winner at last.

A leading philosopher has claimed that women are more moral than men.
Professor Roger Steare developed the ‘Moral DNA’ test four years ago to measure both a person’s morality and the changes in their value systems when they enter the workplace.

Since then 60,000 volunteers have taken the questionnaire in more than 200 countries, ranging from chief executives to manual workers and housewives.
Professor Steare said the results show that your gender and age are most likely to influence your morality – with women and the over-thirties proving the ‘most moral’.

I've always been extremely skeptical of claims that men are more moral or rational than women or vice versa. We think, reason, and judge differently depending on our experiences, upbringing or faith, temperment, and yes - probably sex to some degree. But the larger problem with such broad pronouncements is that they presuppose a given definition of morality.

If you place a premium on caring then women will appear more moral but if you place a premium on justice then men tend to edge us out. I've often thought that the way men approach relationships with other people is more suited to a world of competitors: it optimizes on interacting with people with whom you have no bond, or with whom you are actively competing for resources. That kind of moral matrix is shaped by a sharp distinction between the way we treat family and close friends (people who can reasonably be expected to reciprocate kindness or trust) and the way we treat strangers or even enemies (people who cannot be trusted, or who may even wish to harm us). The down side of the traditionally male moral matrix is that having defensive walls up 24/7 isn't always appropriate with a spouse or close family. If you treat your spouse like you treat competitors, you're probably headed for divorce court.

Women tend to have an approach that is more suited to dealing with family or close friends. Intimacy and trust are easier for us. There are advantages to this model - one being that it often disarms other people and makes them more generous and fair. I've often found in the work world that it's easier for me to get others to cooperate (even when this means giving up something of value) than it is for my male co-worker. But it can also be disastrous when used with someone who is dishonorable.

It's also disastrous as a model for large societies, because we don't form the same bonds with total strangers that we form with family and friends. There is no reasonable expectation of reciprocity. I expect that this distinction (and not patriarchal oppression) explains why governments are usually run by men. Their moral model is more suited to the tasks governments must perform.

At any rate, these are gross generalizations. I find Jonathan Haidt's moral matrix interesting because he likens morality to an equalizer with six (OK, I just typed "sex" - I don't even want to think about what that means...) slider bars:

Care
Fairness
Loyalty
Authority
Purity
Liberty

Grim has been taking Haidt's online quizzes:

Dr. Haidt has updated his online quizzes, which you may enjoy taking for fun or edification; or just to help see the point he's trying to make. I was pleased to score perfectly on the scientific knowledge quiz, for example; it's not hard, and I expect all of you will do likewise. Both liberals and conservatives average over six out of seven total points.

The point he is making that gets the most attention comes from his "Sacredness Survey," where he's pushing the argument that conservatives and liberals share three value systems (fairness, avoidance of harm, and purity), but that conservatives have two more (authority and in-group loyalty).

I learn from this survey that Haidt's model ranks me as considering all but one of these values considerably more sacred than is normal for either liberals or conservatives; the exception is authority, for which I apparently have almost no respect whatsoever.

Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory is a model, and like most models it can never capture the infinite nuances of human behavior. But that doesn't mean they have no value. Myers-Briggs is another model that doesn't perfectly capture the human personality, but it achieves its intended purpose, which was to help people understand those who think and respond differently. I can unreservedly credit Myers-Briggs for helping me to understand my mother in law. Once I figured out what type she was, I was able to understand where she was coming from and better predict what would appeal to her or upset her.

As Grim mentions, I've been reading Haidt's latest book The Righteous Mind, and it's fascinating. So if you're inclined, go over to Grim's place and take the quizzes (link is in his post).

I took them a long time ago but would probably have to re-take them as Haidt added "Liberty/Oppression" to the list. I did take the Moral DNA test. Here are my results:

moraldna.png

Models, while not perfect, are helpful to the extent that they provide a framework for analyzing and understanding complex systems. Interesting stuff.

Posted by Cassandra at April 16, 2012 07:29 AM

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Comments

Models, while not perfect, are helpful to the extent that they provide a framework for analyzing and understanding complex systems.

Imperfect? The dang thing thinks I'm a "Judge!" That's not only imperfect, that's suicide.

Posted by: spd rdr - judges, not lest y'all be found guilty at April 16, 2012 10:16 AM

I took your new test this morning, and also came out "Philosopher." It goes on to say that this is an accurate type, according to the tests, because my responses strongly place me in that model and no other.

Here's what strikes me as most interesting about what you wrote this morning:

I've often found in the work world that it's easier for me to get others to cooperate (even when this means giving up something of value) than it is for my male co-worker. But it can also be disastrous when used with someone who is dishonorable.

It's also disastrous as a model for large societies, because we don't form the same bonds with total strangers that we form with family and friends. There is no reasonable expectation of reciprocity. I expect that this distinction (and not patriarchal oppression) explains why governments are usually run by men. Their moral model is more suited to the tasks governments must perform.

The part of my post right after where you stopped quoting is the part where I talked about how I view legitimate authority as an outgrowth of in-group status. That sounds somewhat like a male version of the model you are describing as your own: except it can be scaled, to some limited degree, beyond intimate social groups.

For example, in the Army you might know everyone at battalion headquarters, but only a few people at Brigade and perhaps mostly just a few names of people from Division. Yet you can have a legitimate authority relationship with the Division Commander because the structure sustains the reciprocity of the bond. You can 'request mast' and expect to be heard, for example; likewise, the commander is expected to be responsible for his men. The structure sustains the kind of bond that results in legitimate authority beyond the intimate group. It's also a traditionally male model of authority (I think it's fair to say, in spite of the large numbers of women who have come to be involved in recent years).

It isn't obvious to me that authority legitimately survives in legal structures where there isn't such reciprocity. A government, however legitimately elected, that divided its people and began to prey on one half for the sake of the other, would lose its claim on the loyalty (and certainly on the obedience) of the oppressed half. That might also occur if the size of the government exceeded the range at which people could be treated as individuals with whom there was a bond, instead of widgets who needed to be moved through machinery.

I'm not sure the "male model" that you are describing can afford to sacrifice this kind of reciprocity either. If we lose it, we lose what makes government legitimate. No amount of legal formality can replace that kind of mutual bond of loyalty.

Posted by: Grim at April 16, 2012 10:40 AM

Philosopher here, too.

I answered many questions differently in the work context. I'm much more formal and exacting about taking on and discharging obligations in that context. In more personal interactions, I'm more fluid, especially in terms of how much effort I'm prepared to put into an interaction. Will I always stand up for a just cause? No, it depends on my relationship with the oppressed. The world's full of a lot more just causes than I could stand up for if that's all I did 24 hours a day. I pick the ones I'm willing and able to fight for; the others might get a casual one-time donation, or I might leave them to their own devices.

Same for doing my best work. If I take on work formally, as in my profession, there are few limits on my determination to do my best. If I'm just interacting with someone casually, they'll get the best work I'm willing and able to do in the time I'm prepared to devote to them, with mere honesty as the bare minimum. But it's true that pride will likely drive me to do somewhat better work than I think they're likely to have expected.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 11:05 AM

"...we do ask you to provide us with some personal data..."

Some? Some!?
Um, I'm sorry but 15 'personal' questions (14 of which are in the NOYFB category) that I am required to answer before I can even begin the test? FTS. I don't know what all the potential categories are, but reprobate has been mentioned often enough when speaking of me.
I can live with that.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 11:26 AM

I had to put "Other" for ethnicity, since the furshligginer survey wouldn't let me select "American."

I, too, came out Philosopher. Is there a pattern here?

But I confess to some confusion. The Weaknesses of the Philosopher type, in this survey, are Will break rules if they believe a higher principle is at
stake. May sometimes lack empathy for others in
making rational decisions.

I fail to see how these are weaknesses. Even good rules are, at best, summaries of the world, and as summaries they can't include all the data. In those missing data are exceptions that demand the rule(s) to be violated in the interest of justice.

Why should I empathize with idiots? This lack does not prevent me from interacting effectively with them and the outcomes of their plain, and repeated, errors. Moreover, where the data and/or the logic are murky, there's very little of the rational to be had, and rationality that is present, because it's also lossy, will differ. Empathy is irrelevant.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 11:33 AM

DL,

Wrt breaking the rules, you always can put down random data for your personal stuff and move on to the survey. I had to outright lie about my ethnicity, for instance.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 11:35 AM

Why should I empathize with idiots?

Posted by: Grim at April 16, 2012 11:37 AM

Hm... the form ate my comment to follow that quote.

What I said was, as Scott Adams points out, we are all idiots now: and it's getting worse as technology develops. We functionally know less and less about how the world around us works, from the machines we interact with to the theories underlying the world.

Thus, some empathy is appropriate. When you're the one in the seat of knowledge, take time and be kind.

Posted by: Grim at April 16, 2012 11:39 AM

...we are all idiots now: and it's getting worse.... Thus, some empathy is appropriate. When you're the one in the seat of knowledge, take time and be kind.

Yes, but what I also said was where the data and/or the logic are murky, there's very little of the rational to be had, and rationality that is present, because it's also lossy, will differ. Empathy is irrelevant.

Our own apparent seat of knowledge may be in that murk and our knowledge commensurately incomplete and/or erroneous.

There's a rational basis for dealing with others with techniques that look like empathy. We may be quibbling around the margins at this point.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 12:03 PM

"We may be quibbling around the margins at this point."

You two?
Nnnaaaaaahhh.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 12:13 PM

?!? It says I'm an Angel ? Reading more closely, it seems I'm on the cusp between Angel and Philosopher (why am I almost always on the cusp? Capricorn & Aquarius, Boar and Dog, ....)

Your test scores tell us that you are:

Two possible types

Your description as an Angel is the most probable. You prefer the ethic of Care to the ethic of Obedience. You also prefer the ethic of Reason to the ethic of Obedience when making moral decisions. But the difference between the ethic of Care and the ethic of Reason is too small to give us a definitive answer. There is a small chance, therefore, that you could also be a Philosopher.

Angel CRO*

Angels believe that being good to others is the most important moral perspective. They think the world would be a better place if we were all a little less selfish and considered the consequences of our actions. Then they'll consider moral principles like love and hope and ask "What would build trust and respect?" Finally and reluctantly, they'll consider rules, laws and regulations. Angels do what's right for others because it's in their nature. They don't have to be told! About 18% of adults are Angels.


Strengths: Lovely people and great to have as friends. -- Well, maybe.


Weaknesses: Will break rules if they believe a higher principle is at stake. May sometimes give people the benefit of the doubt rather than stand up for a principle. -- That's scary accurate.

Posted by: htom at April 16, 2012 02:04 PM

"Wrt breaking the rules, you always can put down random data for your personal stuff and move on to the survey."

Lie on a morals quiz.....?

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 02:44 PM

Angels do sound like lovely friends, htom.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 03:25 PM

Lie on a morals quiz.....?

Yew betcha. I fail to see how these are weaknesses. Even good rules are, at best, summaries of the world, and as summaries they can't include all the data. In those missing data are exceptions that demand the rule(s) to be violated in the interest of justice.

There's a good goggie....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 03:33 PM

htom, I can't remember all of the text below the part I captured for the graphic, but the test had a hard time deciding what I was too.

Also, what T99 said :)

Posted by: Cass at April 16, 2012 03:58 PM

Imperfect? The dang thing thinks I'm a "Judge!"

I think this might be a better fit :p

/running for the barricades

Posted by: Here Come da Judge! at April 16, 2012 05:00 PM

I am a Judge?


I declare a mistrial!

Posted by: bthun at April 16, 2012 05:35 PM

"I declare a mistrial!"

How 'bout a Happy Hour? Shirley you can declare a Happy Hour, bein' a judge and all.....
0>;~}

Posted by: Snarkammando at April 16, 2012 06:38 PM

"How 'bout a Happy Hour? Shirley you can declare a Happy Hour, bein' a judge and all..... 0>;~}"

Alrighty then...

Based on the evidence submitted by Tex in another venue, evidence that posits Dark Matter attracts <insert Flip Wilson hoot with smooth slide here> while Dark Energy repels, I will recess this comment and advise everyone to head over to DL's Dark [Matter] Side for Happy Hour.

BTW, just how long is Happy Hour at the Event Horizon?
*the Judge wants to know if there will be enough refreshment on hand or if he needs to place a call to the GSA and/or the Colombian Tourist Board*

Posted by: Judge Roy Bean at April 16, 2012 07:37 PM

...just how long is Happy Hour at the Event Horizon?

It's all relative. Just how are your relatives?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 16, 2012 08:45 PM

"Just how are your relatives?"

They're fair to middlin'....relatively speakin', that is.
Yours?
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 09:33 PM

*groan* :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2012 06:03 AM

They're fair to middlin'....relatively speakin', that is.
Yours?

Not too bad. Though their events tend to be beyond my horizon, so it's a stretch to get to them....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at April 17, 2012 09:37 AM

A study that evaluates how moral people are, at work or otherwise, by simply *asking* them a bunch of questions about their own morality, shouldn't be given much credibility.

Instead of asking the individual how his colleagues would rate him/her on "caring behavior," why not ask the colleagues?

Posted by: david foster at April 17, 2012 10:38 AM

I don't think self reported studies are very good at measuring actual behavior, but I think they're probably pretty good at measuring what the test taker thinks the standard *should* be.

That's what interests me here: clearly there is a difference between what men and women think they *ought* to do (as opposed to what they do).

You could posit that what we think ought to happen has less or more effect on what we actually do and I'd agree with you 100%. But I think there's probably a relationship.

Posted by: Cass at April 17, 2012 10:59 AM

I agree -- the people reporting on the study ought to be a little more careful not to conclude things like "women are more moral than men." An exam like this can reveal a lot about how someone approaches his own moral philosophy, but it doesn't say much about how well he actually behaves. It was interesting that some of the questions were phrased in terms of what "people" should do, while others were phrased in terms of what "I" actually do. I'd respond one way to a question about what a good rule of behavior is, and another to a statement like "I always tell the truth, no matter what," or "I never back down from a just cause."

And then they also threw in questions about what impression people have of how I think or behave. Do people think I'm caring? They may or may not, and it doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with how much I do care -- something that's controlled more by how opaque or expressive I am.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 17, 2012 11:32 AM

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