What Is Morality?

For a topic as subjective as morality, people sure have strong beliefs about what's right and wrong. Yet even though morals can vary from person to person and culture to culture, many are practically universal, as they result from basic human emotions. We may think of moralizing as an intellectual exercise, but more frequently it's an attempt to make sense of our gut instincts.

Recent Posts on Ethics and Morality

Bribery as Medical Treatment

Smokers are being bribed to give up their habit. This risks turning all human conduct into a disease.

The Ethics of Extra Credit: A Case to Ponder

Extra credit is a common, complex and controversial issue. See what you think of this case.

Our Children's Children's Children*

On top of old worries about whether humankind will survive the next few centuries come new concerns about whether our descendants will even be human in a sense that we would recognize. The centuries ahead could be very interesting, indeed.

Why We Love To See Conspiracies

By Temma Ehrenfeld on May 28, 2015 in Open Gently
People who believe in conspiracies may hold contradictory ideas about the same event.

FIFA Fo Fum I Smell the Blood of Corruption

What’s most shocking about the FIFA corruption scandal is that it has been going on for so long with so many people aware of it and yet the majority turning a blind eye to it.

Un-Churched Chimps

Research on monkeys and chimpanzees suggests that moral sensibilities evolved long before religious sensibilities.

Invading Privacy in the Name of Safety

Whether or not we allow parents and governments to invade our privacy depends on how the question is framed - is it a safety or moral concern or is simply an issue that concerns only ourselves.

How Evolutionary Psychology Illuminates Everyday Life

Evolutionary psychology has become famous as a powerful framework for understanding even the most mundane aspects of life. Read further to see how the evolutionary perspective provides insights into 10 common cliches.

Finding Truth and Authenticity in an Age of Irony

The artist—and we all are artists, good, bad, or ugly—expands the ordinary into the extraordinary or condenses the extraordinary into the common. He, she, enchants the cosmos.

Moving Beyond Science vs. Religion

Ignorance underlies most claims about the conflict between science and religion

Wrong Self-Appraisals Result from the Use of Wrong Criteria

Mental conflicts, including intrusive thoughts or emotions (e.g., rumination on trauma or other negative events, self-blame, shame, hopelessness, guilt, anger, or sadness) result from both unawareness that the self-schemas or appraisals are regulated by one’s pattern schemas, and the use of wrong or distorted pattern schemas for self-evaluations.

Forgiveness and the Meaning of Memorial Day

We can forgive those who harm us, but we can't forgive those who kill us.

How Marketers Manipulate You Into Becoming Their Friend

New research reveals how shockingly easy it is to manipulate consumers to like and forgive marketers that deceive them.

Conversation with a Mother about Sleep Training her Baby

Dear Dr., I need help! I have a lovely 11 month old baby girl and my husband and I both work full-time… I resorted to sleep coaching recently… I am afraid that we have already done irreparable damage to our sweet baby.

Why Patience is Power

By Neel Burton M.D. on May 23, 2015 in Hide and Seek
Life is too short to wait, but it is not too short for patience.

Don’t Just Tell Me "Thank You"

By Nancy Sherman Ph.D. on May 22, 2015 in Afterwar
A young vet came forward, turned to a civilian he hadn’t met before, and said: “Don’t just tell me ‘Thank you for your service.’ First say, ‘Please.’” He didn’t explain further. But the resentment expressed was unmistakable. You couldn’t be a civilian in that room and not feel the sting.

What Really Motivates Kids

What really motivates kids (and adults for that matter)? Not rewards. Not punishments. Not even intrinsic motivation! My goodness -- what's left?

The Drama of the Drone Warrior

By Yosef Brody Ph.D. on May 21, 2015 in Limitless?
The new drone warfare movie starring Ethan Hawke may be fiction but ironically it gives a better sense of the workings and effects of our actual drone program than has been offered so far by government officials.

Are You an Ethical Leader?

If you’re really honest with yourself for a moment how ethical are your leadership behaviors?

Do Moral Violations Require a Victim?

By Jesse Marczyk on May 21, 2015 in Pop Psych
On the matter of whether harmless moral violations actually exist

The Uses of Shame

By Joseph Burgo Ph.D. on May 20, 2015 in Shame
In different ways, the religious right and the liberal left both make use of shame to enforce their values.

The Great Grief: How To Cope with Losing Our World

A “Great Grief” a feeling that rises in us as if from the Earth itself

Good Sex

Truly good sex is about more than bodies, it is about persons.

Fugitive Facts Escape from APA Headquarters

By Roy Eidelson Ph.D. on May 18, 2015 in Dangerous Ideas
As they wait for an investigator’s report, APA leaders claim that they’ve already refuted allegations of collusion in the Bush Administration’s abusive “enhanced interrogation program.” Such pretense is a disservice to APA members, to the profession as a whole, and to the public at large.

The Delusion of a Savior Nuclear and Otherwise

By David P. Barash Ph.D. on May 17, 2015 in Pura Vida
It's a common delusion: there exists a potential savior that/who will swoop in and rescue us. This error is depicted in a fascinating new sci fi novel, even as it is acted out in today's nuclear policies.

Shame on Social Shamers

Social shaming is a growing trend to influence the behavior of others. Often accompanied by an aura of moral righteousness, it overlooks the negative impact of perpetuating shame and its ineffectiveness in achieving real change.

Mad Men vs. Hill Street Blues

Which world do you choose?

How to Be Empathetic

“All you ever wants to do is try to fix things.” “You just don't get it.” Judgments like these and countless others verbalized or thought in the context of interpersonal relationships point to one popular problem: the lack of empathy for the other. This blog provides nine guidelines for addressing this block to successful relationships.

Did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Deserve the Death Penalty?

By Joe Pierre M.D. on May 15, 2015 in Psych Unseen
How did jurors decide Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's fate?

Moving Beyond the Euthanasia Imperative

Why is natural death wrong for our companion animals? Why is it a dangerous idea that animals could be—at least in some circumstances—kept comfortable and shielded from significant suffering as they live out their last days? And to turn the question backwards, why is euthanasia the unchallenged imperative in veterinary medicine?