YourMorals.Org: Web Site Review
November 14, 2009
What do you get when you put a bunch of social psychologists together? You get a fascinating web site called YourMorals.Org. Developed by a group of psychologists interested in how individual morality affects people’s political identity, YourMorals.Org is both insightful and fun.
It’s fun because you get to take online quizzes about yourself. And it’s insightful because your answers are compared to those of self-identified liberals and conservatives who have also taken the quizzes. Colorful bar charts show you exactly where you rank politically as related to how you react morally.
The cornerstone of the site is the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. This asks questions that rank you on five different areas associated with morality. The areas are: Fairness, Harm, Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. The site explains what each of these means, but, to be brief, liberals tend to rank high only on Fairness and Harm (i.e., they find actions that hurt people or treat people unfairly to be immoral actions), while conservatives tend to also rank high on Authority, Loyalty, and Purity (i.e., they also find actions that go against the leader, the group, or engender feelings of disgust to be immoral actions).
Of course, we all have our own unique gut-level tipping points for each of the five areas, but the site’s creators have found their generalizations about liberals and conservatives to be true. Their purpose in maintaining the site is to make those of us who take the quizzes more aware of our own “home morality,” as Jonathan Haidt, one of the site’s developers, calls it. By knowing where you stand, the creators hope that you can then step out of your home morality and try to imagine where the other guy stands. The hoped-for result of that is greater civility in politics.
For example, if I do not consider morality, or if I assume that everyone else’s moral foundations are the same as mine, I may view someone who opposes homosexuality as a narrow-minded bigot. If I realize that the other person opposes homosexuality because it goes against his morality — that his morality is defined as adherence to a code that does not allow homosexuality — I can better understand that person and think of him in more civil terms.
Site co-creator Ravi Iyer confirms that liberals are more inclined to take the quizzes on the site than are conservatives, but he says that the analysis of the quizzes adjust for that. The number of quizzes available on the site is quite impressive, and Mr. Iyer states that he and his colleagues are always looking for new ways to use the data they collect, with the ultimate goal of increased understanding.
Mr. Iyer also notes that President Obama is unique among recent presidents and presidential candidates in that he regularly touches on all five moral foundations in his speeches. I call that a testament to Obama’s desire to promote increased understanding among Americans.
So, please visit YourMorals.Org and find out where you stand. Then, take a look around and see if it’s easier to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.