New Special Collections: New Perspectives on Psychological Science

Four independently submitted journal articles (preface by an outstanding early-career scholar) explore the importance of contextualizing morality in order to better understand moral behaviors and change.

Preface: The Importance of Context in Moral Judgments
Chelsea Schein

In a preface to the inaugural edition of “New Perspectives on Psychological Science,” Schein emphasizes the importance of contextualizing morality in order to provide a better account of reality and improve predictions of moral behavior and understanding of moral change.

The Moral Psychology of Raceless, Genderless Strangers
Neil Hester and Kurt Gray

Research in moral psychology generally uses unspecified characters, which may challenge the generalization of findings to real-world judgments that do not involve raceless, genderless strangers. Hester and Gray argue for the importance of incorporating identity into moral psychology because the identities of targets and perceivers alike influence social judgments. They suggest an integration of moral psychology and social cognition to address the role of identity in everyday moral judgments.

The Morality of War: A Review and Research Agenda
Hanne Watkins

The question of what is morally right or wrong in war has great implications for public policy and international law. Suggesting a new way to study the morality of war, Watkins combines the philosophical just-war theory (which identifies the moral principles that govern the conduct of war as discrimination between civilians and combatants, the proportionality of strength used given the target, and the prohibition of means that are bad in themselves, such as biological weapons) with experimental paradigms and theories developed to study morality in general.

Is Opposition to Genetically Modified Food “Morally Absolutist”? A Consequence-Based Perspective
Edward B. Royzman, Corey Cusimano, Stephen Metas, and Robert F. Leeman

Many people oppose genetically modified foods (GMFs). According to the moral-absolutism perspective, people think GMFs should be banned regardless of their value or risk. Royzman and colleagues present five studies showing that those who believe GMFs should be banned regardless of their value or risk do not understand and/or cannot answer the question “Should GMFs be prohibited no matter how great the benefits and minor the risks of allowing them?” Clarifying the question cuts absolutism to near zero and thus provides a context in which GMF opponents understand the potential value of GMFs.

What Are the Irreducible Basic Elements of Morality? A Critique of the Debate Over Monism and Pluralism in Moral Psychology
Bree Beal

Do all moral values reduce to one principle (monism), or are there multiple irreducibly distinct moral values (pluralism)? Beal argues that, beyond this question, the moral domain cannot be represented, understood, or explained in terms of moral values. Instead, he suggests that we should use more basic elements—ontological frames—to explain moral phenomena. He explains that one’s evaluative framing of the facts determines moral judgments and that this framing is largely independent of one’s values. Beal details the nature and emergence of ontological frames and how they may explain morality.

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