!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Moral Sense Test

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Moral Sense Test

The Moral Sense Test (MST), sponsored by the Cognitive Evolution Laboratory at Harvard's psychology department, is "a Web-based study into the nature of human moral judgment." Researchers at the lab use the MST as part of an effort to understand how people decide what is right and wrong. As the researchers explain:
To answer this question, we have designed a series of moral dilemmas to probe the psychological mechanisms underlying our moral judgments. By presenting these dilemmas on the Web, we hope to gain insight into the similarities and differences between the moral judgments of people of different ages, from different cultures, with different educational backgrounds and religious beliefs, involved in different occupations and exposed to very different circumstances.

. . .

Our aim is to use data from the MST, as well as other experiments, to characterize the nature of our moral psychology, how it evolved, and how it develops in our species, creating individuals with moral responsibilities. The MST has been designed for all humans who are curious about that puzzling little word “ought” — about the principles that make one action right and another wrong.
You can take the test yourself here. The lab promises strict confidentiality both for the demographic information you provide (age, sex, etc.) and for your responses to the test items.

Those test items are moral dilemmas (when I took it, there were twenty-one), for which you are asked to indicate your assessment of the moral course of action.

There is no immediate feedback. Instead, you are able, if you wish, to browse through the lab's publications to see which of the publications referencing the MST might be of interest.

For instance, I read "The Role of Conscious Reasoning and Intuition in Moral Judgments: Testing Three Principles of Harm" (pdf) by Fiery Cushman (a post-doc in psychology at Harvard), Liane Young (now a post-doc in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT), and Marc Hauser (professor of psychology, organismic and evolutionary biology, and biological anthropology at Harvard). To give you an overview, here is the abstract:
Is moral judgment accomplished by intuition or conscious reasoning? An answer to this question demands a detailed account of the moral principles in question. Here we investigate three principles guiding subjects’ moral judgments and then ask whether they are invoked to explain those judgments. Across a variety of moral dilemmas, subjects’ judgments about the permissibility of harming an individual aligned with three principles: (1) harm caused by action is worse than harm caused by omission, (2) harm intended as the means to a goal is worse than harm foreseen as the side-effect of a goal, and (3) harm involving physical contact with the victim is worse than harm involving no physical contact. Subjects generally appealed to the first and third principles in their justifications, but not to the second principle. This finding has significance for the methods and theories of moral psychology: the moral principles used in judgment must be directly compared to those articulated in justification and, when they are, evidence emerges that some moral principles are available to conscious reasoning while others are not.
The article appeared n Psychological Science in 2006 (vol. 17, no. 12, pp. 1082-1089).


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