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

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?

Shocking Pseudoscience

By Amy S.F. Lutz on May 15, 2015 in Inspectrum
In their quest to ban ECT, protesters ignore thousands of studies that support the safety and efficacy of this treatment to ameliorate the symptoms of debilitating and intractable psychiatric illnesses.

Speed: Scientific Self-Correction versus Plate Tectonics

By Lee Jussim Ph.D. on May 15, 2015 in Rabble Rouser
If psychological science is self-correcting, it is very very very hard to detect.

The One Graduation Message We All Need to Hear

The field of evolutionary psychology has enormous implications for how to guide the next generation of leaders. In particular, the field helps illuminate the nature of giving—a value that we expect all of our graduates to internalize.

Death With Dementia

By Robin Marantz Henig on May 15, 2015 in Cusp
Sandy Bem needed to choose a day to die, and it had to be just right. Too soon, and it might be a day when she still felt basically fine, still essentially herself even as her Alzheimer's disease implacably ate away at her intellect. Too late, and she might no longer have the resolve, or the understanding, or even the physical dexterity to end her life on her own.

Doctor-Patient Communications are Out of Whack

Given the high-stakes of medical testing and treatment, the doctor-patient relationship is shaped to varying degrees by apprehension and fretfulness for both parties involved. When there is irrelationship between doctor and patient, it is more likely that there will be irrelationship between the healthcare system and everyone else.

Why Children Are Being Undereducated

By Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. on May 14, 2015 in Am I Right?
All children need to be part of a fair educational system.

The Extreme Humanity Of Napalm Death’s Marc Greenway

Napalm Death’s vocalist Marc “Barney” Greenway shares his core humanitarian message and commitment to bring attention to when people are not treated with respect and dignity.

What Edward Snowden Teaches Us about Heroic Disobedience

Most of us believe we would never dangerously shock an innocent person – as participants in the Milgram experiments thought they were doing. But what about disobedience in real life? One way to assess the costs of such disobedience is to observe what happens when people defy a powerful system they consider morally wrong.

Did the Victorian Asylum Allow the Rich to Evade Justice?

By Sarah Wise on May 13, 2015 in Lunacy and Mad Doctors
A member of the establishment is accused of a sex crime but avoids trial by being declared unfit to plead. A scandal erupts. It's England, 1854

How to Stop Others from Lying

By Joseph Grenny on May 13, 2015 in Crucial Conversations
The most powerful way to improve the moral character of our world is not policing, but connecting. We can help one another stay morally engaged by simply connecting people with their own values and with the consequences of their choices.

Do Christians Trust Muslims?

Does the apparent increase in religious tension between Muslims and Christians adversely affect trust between the two groups. A new study sheds light with both surprising and reassuring results.

Protecting Mental Health Research from the War on Terror

Have we done enough to prevent government officials from forcing mental health professionals to act unethically?