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 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

The Dark Side of 9/11: Manipulating Trauma for Sympathy

By Jean Kim M.D. on September 24, 2017 in Culture Shrink
The heartbreak of 9/11 held the nation's sympathy. For a few wayward souls, the temptation of receiving that powerful sympathy was worth lying for.

Do We Humans "Need" Tragedies to Bring Us Together?

By Saul Levine M.D. on September 22, 2017 in Our Emotional Footprint
During major cataclysms, differences and conflicts between us seem to dissipate, and we tend to reach out to each other with increased caring, empathy, and sense of community.

Trusting What Disabled People Say

By Katherine Hawley Ph.D. on September 22, 2017 in Trust
Why is it sometimes hard to accept what disabled people tell us about their lives, their values, and their experiences?
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The True Self

By Art Markman Ph.D. on September 21, 2017 in Ulterior Motives
What does it mean to believe that there is a "true self" inside of everyone?

Why Is There Evil?

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on September 21, 2017 in Hot Thought
People’s brains are equipped for caring and empathy, so why do people often hurt each other? Evil is like disease, resulting from malfunctions in mechanisms.

Sharing the Love: Research Shatters Myths About Non-monogamy

By Michael Aaron, Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in Standard Deviations
New research employing personality theory and moral psychology shatters myths about consensual non-monogamy.

Do Romantic Relationships Imply a Loss of Self? Should They?

A recent column by David Brooks raises the false dichotomy between individuality and sociality.

Mend the Gap Between Rich and Poor in School Achievement

By Peter Gray Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in Freedom to Learn
The more rigid and authoritarian the school program is, the greater is the achievement gap between rich and poor. The more trusting and empowering it is, the smaller is the gap.

Praising Children May Encourage Them to Cheat

By David Ludden Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in Talking Apes
Praise is important for emotional growth. But new research shows that the way praise is worded—even for three-year-olds—can have a significant impact on their moral choices.

Fluid Hard-Lining: A Gaslighter’s Favorite Trick

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 19, 2017 in Ambigamy
Gaslighters draw a hard line between good and bad, and fluidly wriggle the line to always put their victims on the bad side.

Sick of Sycophants

The stories we tell about sycophants.

Courage and Conscience in Today's America

By Brenda Berger Ph.D. on September 15, 2017 in Hearts and Minds
Whatever happened to the home of the free and the brave?

Dealing With Workplace Bullies

By Goal Auzeen Saedi Ph.D. on September 14, 2017 in Millennial Media
Workplace bullying can be more common than we admit it to be. However, resources and ways of dealing with victimization can be limited.

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

If twisting a magic ring could make you invisible and you could get away with anything, would you twist it?

Gaydar Goes AI and Populism Comes to Science

An upcoming study on a computer program that categorizes sexual preference from photos has come under fire.

Aristotle and the Teenager Who Started a Wildfire

By Jennifer Baker Ph.D. on September 12, 2017 in For the Love of Wisdom
A 15-year-old threw a firecracker tha started a major forest fire in Oregon. The public wants him held responsible. Does it matter whether he intended to cause so much harm or not?

Managing Sexual Harassment and Violence On Campus

Understanding Title IX and Clery is a professional imperative. Learn the procedures to correctly handle sexual assault and violent behavior on campus.
Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

16 Tons

By Elizabeth Young on September 11, 2017 in Adaptations
I see in Annie's eyes the fear of a personal apocalypse.
dingo care

Willful Ignorance and Self-Deception

By Mark Alicke Ph.D. on September 10, 2017 in Why We Blame
Are you fooling yourself on purpose or unconsciously?

How Speaking a Second Language Affects the Way You Think

By David Ludden Ph.D. on September 09, 2017 in Talking Apes
The effort of speaking a second language impacts decision-making processes, but in unexpected ways.

The Root of All Hypocrisy

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 08, 2017 in Ambigamy
In a pinch, we pull out bogus one-size-fits-all moral rules that we can't, won't, and shouldn't try to live by.

When Should Journalists Put Down the Mic and Lend Aid?

When is it a moral imperative for journalists covering hurricanes and other disasters to intervene to help victims, and when is it mere grandstanding?

Moral Decency and the Dreamers

By Michael W. Austin Ph.D. on September 07, 2017 in Ethics for Everyone
What does it say about our character if we deport 600,000-800,000 people who have essentially grown up in our country back to a place they've never known?

Game of Cheating

By Joachim I Krueger Ph.D. on September 07, 2017 in One Among Many
When you cheat, know what you can get away with and whether your conscience will trouble you.

Let's Eliminate Physical Restraints in Group Homes

By Robert T Muller Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Talking About Trauma
Physical restraints place children and youth at serious risk.

The Butthead Formula

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Ambigamy
To reduce conflict while curbing bad behavior, we really need a more objective definition of bad behavior. Here's an attempt at a neutral, objective definition of buttheadedness.

Trump's Transgender Gaslighting

By Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D. on September 05, 2017 in Intentional Insights
Is the Trump administration's spin around the transgender directive gaslighting the transgender community?
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Did Trump Create A Moral Panic To Get Elected?

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on September 05, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Is it possible for influential individuals or groups to achieve their goals by either creating or exploiting widespread public fear?

Polarization Of Groups Never Ends Well

We live in difficult times with extreme polarization of groups resulting in divisiveness everywhere. Research in psychology informs us that this never ends well. So, push back!

Racism Hides Behind The Small Things People Say And Do

By Monnica T Williams Ph.D. on September 04, 2017 in Culturally Speaking
New research finds that White college students who engage in microaggressions are more likely to have racist attitudes.