Evolving moral intuitions: how ancient values shape attitudes to modern issues

Green, Joe (2022) Evolving moral intuitions: how ancient values shape attitudes to modern issues. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Across four papers, this thesis examines three key themes: which moral values predict preference for Universal Basic Income (UBI); can moral reframing improve peoples’ UBI attitudes; and how our evolved privacy psychology may be mismatched with modern online environments. Both UBI and online privacy are becoming increasingly topical issues, yet there is a paucity of research focused on the role moral intuitions play in determining attitudes and behaviours related to these issues. As such, we adopt a Moral Foundations Theory framework to identify the moral values which underpin peoples’ attitudes to UBI. We then follow up by using a moral reframing intervention to couch UBI messages in terms of the values associated with peoples’ identified moral concerns. While for online privacy, we set out to explain why people profess to value their privacy yet do little to protect it when online – a phenomenon known as the privacy paradox. By adopting an evolutionary mismatch framework, we posit that this contradiction between one’s stated and revealed preferences can, in part, be explained as an evolutionary mismatch. That is, human privacy intuitions have adapted to an ancestral environment which is far removed from the online environment of today. As such, the suite of evolved intuitions that guide behaviours to protect our bodies, territories, and reputations often fail because of a lack of recognisable cues within the digital environment.

In Paper 1, examining a US sample, Study 1 and 2 use a series of moral measures to predict individuals’ UBI preferences, revealing Equality and Economic Liberty to be the two significant moral predictors. Study 3 then morally reframed UBI messages to align with these values; both messages were shown to significantly increase UBI preference (vs. Control message). In Paper 2, Study 1 and 2 again examined the moral predictors of UBI preference, though this time with samples from the UK and Norway. Beginning with the UK, we found that, when using the original five moral foundations to predict UBI preference, the Authority
foundation emerged as the only significant predictor of UBI preference. In the second study we introduced a more granular set of moral measures and a second sample from Norway. Results revealed that in the UK, Authority was again found to predict UBI preference, along with Equality. While in the Norwegian sample, Authority was revealed to be the single, significant moral predictor. In Paper 3 we designed a moral reframing technique based on the findings in Paper 2. The study examined whether UBI messaging, couched in the values relevant to the Norwegian and UK sample, could again increase UBI preference (vs. Control message). Results found that none of the reframed messages significantly increased participant favourability of UBI. Finally, in Paper 4 – a theory paper – we submit that the privacy paradox is not simply the product of internet users’ rational cost-benefit analysis. Rather, this inability to protect one’s personal online data is the result of an evolutionary mismatch between the ancestral environment we adapted to, and the digital environment we often find ourselves in today. I then discuss some of the limitations of adopting the theoretical conception of morality as outlined by Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). To conclude, I outline several suggestions for policy makers and researchers on the topic of UBI and online privacy, based upon the empirical findings and theorising within this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0199 Behaviourism. Neobehaviourism. Behavioural psychology
H Social Sciences > HG Finance > HG0179 Personal finance
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2022 13:44
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2022 13:44
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/103912

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