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Take the morals test

The University of Virginia, The University of California (Irvine), and the University of Southern California are conducting a survey project that examines, among other things, the correlation between political orientation (Liberal/Conservative) and a group of 5 moral axes: harm/care, farness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity.

I would not be surprised if there are correlations, even strong correlations, between the survey results and who is and is not a birther. If readers here, especially those who consider Obama “too foreign” to be President would post their results here in comments, it could help decide that question.

I took the first survey (Moral Foundations Questionnaire) myself, and found that I aligned more with Conservatives on the harm and authority scales and with liberals on purity. I split the difference on loyalty but ranked higher than both on questions of fairness (where liberals rank higher than Conservatives)1.

There is a quotation falsely attributed to Winston Churchill that I find a useful jumping-off point for the rest of the article:

If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.

The university study tests the hypothesis that political orientation is biologically based. In my own case, I was raised a Southern Baptist in a rural Alabama town. I even wrote a fan letter to George Wallace in high school about states rights. Nevertheless, I was always about fairness. When I went to college and had the opportunity to get in touch with more liberal views, I found that they fitted me well. I was most decidedly a liberal at age 25 and a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

Now that I am older (61) I think that life experience plays a stronger role than it used to. I can see the pragmatic value of loyalty and how the proper use of authority can prevent harm. What passes for conservative thought in this country seems more an anti-intellectual backlash than anything else, and I’m no kin to that. My experience may explain why I’m more inclined to support centrist Democrats (like Obama and Clinton) but am still moved by more liberal politicians.


1My scores were: 3.0, 4.2, 2.5, 2.8 and 1.7.

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19 Responses to Take the morals test

  1. avatar
    Paul August 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    3.7, 3.3, 1.8, 2.0, 0.3

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy August 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    What was weird was the Abstract vs. Intuitive Categorization (triad process) questionnaire where I scored ZERO.

  3. avatar
    J. Potter August 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    My, what a collection of surveys they have there!

    Harm 3.5
    Fairness 4.2
    Loyalty 2.8
    Authority 3.0
    Purity 2.7

    Guess that holy rollin’ small town upbringin’ still has legs.

  4. avatar
    J. Potter August 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Not weird at all … if I understand the explanation correctly. That means you are an abstract thinker, more likely to associate by type. Monkey belongs with dog, because they are both animals, as opposed to associating monkeys with bananas, because monkeys (sterotypically) eat bananas, dogs don’t. However, I’ve seen many a dog eat many a banana, so, not the best example…

    I was surprised that online results imply just about every one else was at the other end of the scale, what they call relational.

    0.1 for me.

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    What was weird was theAbstract vs. Intuitive Categorization (triad process) questionnaire where I scored ZERO.

  5. avatar
    ZixiOfIx August 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Harm 3.0
    Fairness 3.7
    Loyalty 1.8
    Authority 2.0
    Purity 2.3

    I thought some questions were really too ambiguous to answer.

    The one about being a soldier and following orders that you didn’t agree with didn’t have enough information.

    “Kill those unarmed civilians” is not equal to “Rake those leaves before you sweep the floor”.

    I can easily see raking then sweeping, even if sweeping then raking made sense whereas I would never shoot innocent civilians regardless.

    So, I answered that question not knowing what they meant by it.

  6. avatar
    ZixiOfIx August 7, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Me, too. I wonder if that test is broken somehow?
    I took all the others except for the one which takes 10 minutes. I’ll do that one in a bit. Interesting & fun to take. I tend to be an abstract thinker, but not “off the charts”.

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    What was weird was theAbstract vs. Intuitive Categorization (triad process) questionnaire where I scored ZERO.

  7. avatar
    Expelliarmus August 7, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    ZixiOfIx: I thought some questions were really too ambiguous to answer.

    I think they want you to go with your gut without thinking too hard — that’s why they had the thing about memorizing the 7-digit number (at least it was 7 digits for me). It’s to tie up your mental resources somewhat, so you can’t be engaging in complex or convoluted thinking about the answers.

  8. avatar
    Expelliarmus August 7, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    Hey, try the current events quiz. The scores aren’t all that interesting, but I think that fans of this blog will probably like some of the questions.

  9. avatar
    Keith August 7, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    3.8, 3.7, 3.8, 2.8, 2.9

  10. avatar
    That Other Mike August 7, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Harm 3.3
    Fairness 4.7
    Loyalty 1.3
    Authority 1.8
    Purity 0.3

    I also got a zero on the abstract quiz; I think it might be broken…

  11. avatar
    Jules August 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Harm: 3.2
    Fairness: 4.2
    Loyalty: 1.7
    Authority: 2.5
    Purity: 1.2

    The question about pride in my country was a little tricky, given that I happen to be a dual national. However, I ultimately came to disagree somewhat in any event, given that every country has both some great virtues as well as many shameful episodes.

  12. avatar
    Mary Adams August 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Harm: 4.5
    Fairness: 3.0
    Loyalty: 2.8
    Authority: 1.8
    Purity: 2.2

    Female perspective. Also former RN.

  13. avatar
    Joyeagle August 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Not surprisingly, I’m opposite you’alls. Am I the only military guy in the forum?
    Harm 1.8, Fairness 1.5, Loyalty 3.2, Authority 3.3, Purity 4.2

  14. avatar
    Sef August 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Joyeagle: Am I the only military guy in the forum?

    Some of us have experienced the horrors of war in other ways.

  15. avatar
    Daniel August 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    3.0 3.8 3.3 2.8 1.7

    No Joyeagle, you’re not the only one. I’m retired Infantry.

    My loyalty and authority scores are very close to yours, but my harm, fairness, and purity scores seem very different.

    I found that the “conservative” type questions seemed to have quite a Christian morals bias. AS a non-Christian, for instance, I don’t hold to any sort of “traditional” “purity” type of moral basis, so that could explain some of it.

  16. avatar
    Randy August 7, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Harm 4.5
    Fairness 4.3
    Loyalty 2.8
    Authority 2.8
    Purity 1.0

  17. avatar
    Rickey August 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    3.5, 3.5, 3.8, 3.7, 1.2

  18. avatar
    Rickey August 7, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Joyeagle:
    Am I the only military guy in the forum?

    I was in the Navy for four years during the Vietnam War.

  19. avatar
    HellT August 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    2.7, 4.5, 1.4, 2.0, 0

    Remember, boys and girls: one man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.