Folk moral objectivism and its measurement

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 84 (2019)
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Experimental philosophers and psychologists investigate whether people perceive moral judgments to be objectively true or false. Existing research focuses on a single dimension of ‘perceived objectivity’. The present research examines whether multiple dimensions of folk moral objectivity underlie moral judgments. It also examines whether such dimensions relate to perceived objectivity, tolerance, and people’s behavioral intentions to punish norm-violators. Exploratory factor analysis on twenty ethical items revealed three different ways of perceiving moral truth (Independent Truth, Universal Truth, Divine Truth), which each form reliable subscales (Study 1). This three-factor structure was supported by confirmatory factor analysis (Study 2). Each of the dimensions is differently related to perceived objectivity (Study 3). With respect to tolerance, perceived objectivity is a mediator in the relationship between perceiving moral truth as absolute or universal and tolerance (Study 4). With respect to a willingness to harm measure, Independent Truth is negatively related and Universal Truth is positively related, to people’s punitive attitudes toward norm-violators.

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Lieuwe Zijlstra
University of Groningen


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