How to use Groups at YourMorals.org

November 11th, 2011 by Jonathan Haidt

Many visitors to YourMorals have told us that they’d like to have everyone in their class, church, or company take one or more surveys and then discuss the results. We have now made it easy to do so. Here’s all you do:

1) Create a Group. Sign in to YourMorals.org and then go to our “Group Creation” page, which you can also get to from near the top of the Explore page. From that page, create a group name. You’ll need to make it something unique, e.g., “Robertsons UVA ethics class” rather than “ethics class.” Spaces are allowed.

2) Send the link. You’ll get a unique URL – a link that you can forward to your group, to invite them to take surveys at YourMorals.org. (See below for an example of an email which you might modify for your purposes and send out.)

3) Pick a few studies. Anyone who creates an account using your group’s link will automatically see a special box at the top of the “explore” page, which says which surveys are the most popular for members of your group. At present, the only way you can get studies into that box is to take those studies yourself. (If you’re the person who created the group, then as soon as you complete a study, it becomes one of the most popular ones for your group).

4) Lead a discussion about the results. We’ll  soon post some ideas or lesson plans to help you or your group interpret and discuss your results.

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[Sample email to send out to your group]

Dear class [or congregation, or team, or whatever]:

For our next meeting, I thought it would be interesting for us to take a few surveys online and then discuss the results. We’ll use the site www.YourMorals.org, which is a non-profit academic research site run by a group of social psychologists who study morality. Please click on this link:

[paste your group-link here]

That will take you to the site. You should then register to create an account. After you’ve filled out the demographic questions, the site will take you to the “explore” page. At the top of the page you’ll see a table with a few studies listed for our group. The studies I think would be most interesting for us are:

1) Moral Foundations Questionnaire

2) Sacredness Survey

3) Business Ethics Questionnaire

[These three are listed as examples. Most groups will want to suggest the Moral Foundations Questionnaire or else the Sacredness Survey, because those are the two studies that give you scores on the five basic foundations of morality. We will soon offer suggestions for sets of studies that may be of interest to various groups]

After you complete each study, you’ll get an explanation of the study which will include a graph showing your score, the scores of everyone in our group averaged together, and the scores of other people who have taken that study. Please be sure to print this page out and bring it to our meeting. Rest assured that your responses are anonymous. Nobody other than you will see your scores. The researchers at YourMorals.org will only use your data for scientific research, and will never be able to link your responses to your name or identity.

If you have already registered at YourMorals.org, before receiving this email, then you can add your existing account to our group by clicking on this link:

[paste in your add-link here, which was at the bottom of the page when you created your group]

Posted in Uncategorized2 Comments »

2 Responses to “How to use Groups at YourMorals.org”

  1. Quora says:

    Where would Quora users fit on a LessWrong morality survey?…

    Here’s the news article on this: http://www.yourmorals.org/blog/2011/11/how-to-use-groups-at-yourmorals-org/…

  2. scott c. guth, m.d. says:

    Dear Jonathan Haidt,

    I’m 80 years old and a retired psychiatrist with a degree in engineering. I congratulate you on your beautiful work, “THE RIGHTEOUS MIND”. You, Joshua Greene and Sam Harris point the way to a scientific evaluation of the moral aspect of human nature. It’s wonderful to find philosophers at work with immediately pragmatic consequences.

    I‘ve been obsessed with a fantasy of diagnosing and treating human nature to correct its worst moral failings. Those failings are war and atrocious neglect of the suffering of people we innately class as “them”. As pre-human and later human bands of foragers and continuing to the present as tribes and nations, we have for countless thousands of years classed species-mates as “them “ and “us”. Evolution gave us the innate judgment that we are more deserving of the good things of life than “them”.

    I’ve taken inspiration from a cartoon character popular before your time. Walt Kelley drew “Pogo”. That wise little possum put me onto what seems a stroke of paramount wisdom, ”We have met the enemy and he is us.” Man is a wolf to man when it’s adaptive. Fate couldn’t have dealt a more severe test of the moral aspect of our nature than the impending threat of eco-collapse and possible extinction of the human race.

    If the carrying capacity of the global human habitat is rapidly degraded and its population burden is increased, the proclivity of “us” to seize the resources of “them” by force or subterfuge will be increased. The insensitivity of “us” to the suffering of “them” and a sense of entitlement will threaten the horror of a war of the all against the all. History gives us many examples of lifeboat morality as tragedy of a city under siege worsens.

    I fear for the life prospects of my grandchildren facing this potential nightmare. If we could institute powerful, polemical rhetoric and install socio-political innovations to persuade the members of our species that we must all get through this without violence and must fulfill our United Nations pledge to provide every child with life circumstances compatible with creating a decent life, we might get through this bottleneck with minimum suffering and death.

    We can hope for this good fortune but I believe this strategy will fail on account of the moral deficiencies of our nature. I know I’m pushing all the buttons for neophobic outrage by proposing an engineered modification of human nature. But it’s only in the past decade that an enabling, profound, metaphysical shift has occurred for a few top-of-the-mark scientists and philosophers.

    Gazzagina and Harris seem to have declared for the correctness of what I’ll call “determinism”. A simple way to think about determinism is to cite a basic biological principle. Biology tells us that animals are and do what they are and do as the result of the interaction of the animal’s gene-informed body with its continuum of environmental circumstances. For brevity call this the interacting body-environment unit (IBEU).

    Determinism is difficult to accept because we have an innate, false belief that we have freewill. Our sociality evolved with this incorrect belief – a keystone in assigning personal responsibility. Determinism logically disables our social system. Nevertheless, determinists automatically live and socialize as if they have freewill because not doing so would be lethally maladaptive. No animal including us could plausibly thread the needle from neonate to grandparent without following an evolved life-plan informed by the animal’s DNA. Call this a fitness algorithm. Any algorithmic process is determinate.

    Determinism provides a conceptual platform for theorizing that, with sufficiently sophisticated science-based technology, we can modify the experience and behavior of a human subject. By designing both bodily and environmental components of a subject’s IBEU we could modify her mental life and her behavior to meet specifications. For the first time, in principle, we will be able to influence a person by modifying what’s inside the body as well as what’s outside the body.

    ”Your “hive switch” is close to what I think of as a brain mechanism that causes us to perceive people dichotomously. The human progenitor is the mating couple and the social system they depend on. “Us” is the group that we depend on to successfully reproduce. “Them” is the group of people that we don’t depend on and that might be competitors or worse. We care about the wellbeing of “us” for obvious reasons. And for equally obvious reasons, we generally don’t care nearly as much about the wellbeing of “them”.

    The ancient dream of a human family has been thoroughly risible and its advocates mercilessly despised. But for the world’s hungry, enslaved and those sunk in inescapable poverty the idea of being taken in by an all-encompassing family is past due for fulfillment. And for those aggrieved by the torments of war, the ancient dream could bring precious relief from fear and pain. And perhaps most important, a human family morally constrained by the attitude we now display in our dealings with “us” might pacifically and generously negotiate the coming mortal threat our species faces.

    What’s needed is modification of people so we will perceive all people as “us” and none as “them.” The hive switch could perhaps be artificially evolved to accomplish that. My fantasy: A highly infectious virus that transduces DNA into target brain cells is developed. It modifies the brain system that results in a prejudicial attitude toward “them” by putting the “switch” in the “us” position when perceiving anybody. This highly infectious and safe virus becomes epidemic. Modification of the inside of people could be supplemented by ideologically moral rhetoric:” Lets take care of all children as it they were our own children”. If the modified, non-prejudiced group is attractive to unmodified people, acceptance of modification could become self-perpetuating.

    This strategy for artificially evolving our nature to be compatible with humane principles is merely to model an idea. Other strategies may be better. Clearly, artificially evolving moral improvement in human nature is the most radical idea and wide open to the charge of being “crackpot”. But if not now, when?

    Early planning would require dedication of highly qualified experts. Execution would require research and development of technology comparable to that of producing the first atom bomb or going to the moon. Unfortunately, we can easily imagine geopolitical problems that would dwarf the difficulties of solving technological ones.

    A unique happenstance: we may be headed for extinction. Could this provide the impetus to make us morally redesign ourselves?

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