Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Interesting…thinking about science enhances moral behavior.

There have been a number of high profile cases of dishonesty in reporting scientific results over the past ten years, but these errors in the conduct of the scientific method may not change public attitude towards scientific method itself. Ma-Kellams and Blascovich, using the usual cohort of university undergraduates as subjects (this time at Univ. of California Santa Barbara) show that exposure to science and experimental primes of science increase the likelihood of enforcing moral norms, Thinking about science had a moralizing effect on several domains: interpersonal violations, prosocial intentions, and economic exploitation. The experiments tested whether inducing thoughts about science could influence both reported, as well as actual, moral behavior by "priming" students with expose words like “logical,” “hypothesis,” “laboratory” and “theory.” They then judged the severity of a date-rape transgression, determined the level of altruistic activities they intended over the next month, and did a behavioral economic game that measures the level of altruistic motivation. The author's conclusions:
These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science.


  1. Anonymous1:45 PM

    do you think this contradicts
    (The Value of Believing in Free Will
    Encouraging a Belief in Determinism Increases Cheating)
    since science should also prime determinism?

  2. The URL you cite was pointed to in

    I don't think there is a necessary contradiction because in the above study, the participants' belief in free will was not being manipulated, as it was in the 2008 work.