Strategic Morality

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 3:00 PM

CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33

Some current evolutionary theories of morality hold that the adaptations that underlie moral judgment and behavior function to deliver benefits (or prevent harm) to others. In this talk, Prof. Robert Kurzban will discuss several lines of research built around an alternative view. In particular, he will present evidence for the view that people adopt moral positions based on calculations of their self-interest. First, in an experimental study, subjects are presented with an economic decision making game and asked to evaluate the fairness (or unfairness) of each possible decision that players in the game might make. We find that subjects are morally self-serving, reporting that decisions that leave them worse off are more “unfair.” In a second body of work, people’s political views change depending on non-obvious factors that shift people’s perception of where their own interests lie. Finally, a third line of work speaks to the possibility that people’s political attitudes are derived not from their party affiliation or their political ideology, but instead derive from calculations of their interests. These results are consistent with a view of morality that suggests that people’s moral views are not adopted in order to aid others – or their group – but instead to advance their goals over various time spans.

Robert Kurzban is a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Psychology Department. He received his PhD at the University of California Santa Barbara at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology in 1998, and received postdoctoral training at Caltech in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, UCLA Anthropology, and the University of Arizona’s Economic Science Laboratory with Vernon Smith. In 2003, he founded the Penn Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology. He has published dozens of journal articles on a wide array of topics, including morality, cooperation, friendship, mate choice, supernatural beliefs, modularity, self-control, and other topics. In 2008, he won the inaugural Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution from the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES). He is the Editor-in-Chief of HBES’ flagship journal, Evolution and Human Behavior. His first book, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite was published in 2011, and his most recent book, The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind, is now available.

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About Gulizar Haciyakupoglu

A PhD Candidate at Communications & New Media Programme, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
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