Morality Is Not Universal
You might think that right and wrong are pretty much the same all over the world, but it seems that is not the case. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has shed light on how different cultures view different situations of moral judgment.
Researchers looked at 322 people in 10 different societies across six continents. Participants were presented with stories that portrayed a moral situation, and encouraged to make moral judgments about the characters in the stories.
These stories involved cases in which the character participated in potential wrongdoing -- like striking another person, stealing, or violating a food taboo. Factors mitigating intent included whether the action was intentional or accidental; or motivated or out of the blue. Each participant heard 4 stories (intentional, accidental, motivated, and out of the blue).
They were then asked to judge the severity of the action, punishment deserved, how the action would affect the character’s reputation, how much the character’s intention played into the action, the outcome, as well as the reaction of the victim.
The results were clear, and clearly contrary to the idea that right and wrong are basic human instincts. Although intentions and mitigating factors play some role in moral psychology across all cultures, the study authors found that it’s different for each society.
The authors concluded that this kind of comparative study across diverse societies will allow us to amend conclusions about human nature that have until now been based solely on Western samples.