The Study Of Moral Judgements Essay

1715 words - 7 pages

Moral judgments comprise a substantial portion of everyday interactions, and as such, it is crucial to understand the mechanism by which they form. While moral judgments have long been a subject of interest in social psychology, only recently has the mechanism of such judgments been studied. Current research has shown that the specific context of a moral judgment has a substantial impact on the outcome of that judgment (Van Bavel, Packer, Johnsen Haas, & Cunningham, 2012). Further research on moral judgments suggests that attention may play a key role in the formation of these judgments (Kastner, 2010). However, earlier research did not attempt to alter attention by manipulating contextual information. We proposed that early attention is driven by existing prejudices and schemas, what we call an interpretive stance, and that these early shifts in attention would in turn drive explicit moral judgments of targets. We hypothesized that individuals assessing the guilt of different target criminals would attend longer and more frequently to mitigating cues for White targets and longer and more frequently to aggravating cues for Black targets. We further hypothesized that individuals would rate White targets as less guilty than black targets, and that these guilt ratings would be increasingly polarized with more polarized initial shifts in attention. We also hypothesized that liberal participants would look more at mitigating cues, while conservative participants would look more at aggravating cues.
We found that for the entire eye-tracking period, while there was a main effect for preference of mitigating cues over aggravating cues across all trials, there were no significant differences in the amount of time spent looking at mitigating and aggravating cues across target race groups. Because the total time period was chosen to allow participants sufficient time to read through each piece of mitigating and aggravating evidence in order to increase believability of the study’s pretenses, we expected that there would be little difference between the mean looking times across target race. Substantial differences in looking times for the entire period of 4000 ms would indicate willfully prejudicial behavior that is highly different from the more implicit prejudicial behavior we anticipated. Particularly due to the general openness and diversity of the participant pool and their environment at a highly liberal university, it would be unlikely for participants to actively engage in racially biased behaviors. However, if participants were drawn from a population with lower internal and external motivation to appear unprejudiced, effects on looking times might be measurable even at such an unrefined level. However, follow-up analyses examining differences in looking times during the first 1000 ms of each eye-tracking period, before any pieces of evidence were shown also revealed no significant differences in times by target race. While a visible trend was...

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