Nav: Home

To strengthen an opinion, simply say it is based on morality

May 31, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Simply telling people that their opinions are based on morality will make them stronger and more resistant to counterarguments, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people were more likely to act on an opinion - what psychologists call an attitude - if it was labeled as moral and were more resistant to attempts to change their mind on that subject.

The results show why appeals to morality by politicians and advocacy groups can be so effective, said Andrew Luttrell, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University.

"The perception that an attitude we hold is based on morality is enough to strengthen it," Luttrell said.

"For many people, morality implies a universality, an ultimate truth. It is a conviction that is not easily changed."

The key finding was how easy it was to strengthen people's beliefs by using the 'moral' label, said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State.

"Morality can act as a trigger - you can attach the label to nearly any belief and instantly make that belief stronger," Petty said.

Other co-authors of the study were Pablo Briñol of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and Benjamin Wagner of St. Thomas Aquinas College. The results are published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

In one experiment, 183 college students read an essay favoring the adoption of a senior comprehensive exam policy at their university. They were asked to provide their thoughts in response to the essay.

The students were then told by the researchers that the views they expressed seemed to be based on morality, tradition or equality.

Participants were then asked to rate how willing they would be to sign a petition in favor of the exam policy and to put their names on a list of students who favor the exam policy, and which way they would vote on the issue.

The results showed that the attitudes of students who were told that their views on the exam policy were based on morality were more likely to predict their behavior than the attitudes of students who were told their views were based on equality or tradition.

"Morality had a lot more impact than the values of tradition and equality," Luttrell said.

"Students were more likely to act on their opinion of the student exam policy if they thought it had to do with morality."

Two other experiments involved a more universal issue - recycling. One of these studies involved college students and the other involved older adults who were not in school.

In these experiments, participants read a brief introduction to the topic of recycling and then were asked to list the thoughts they had about the issue.

In this case, the researchers told the participants that their thoughts related to either morality or to the practicality of recycling. Participants then reported their attitudes toward recycling.

Nearly all of the participants had positive views on recycling. So the researchers then asked them to read a short persuasive essay with arguments against the benefits of recycling.

Then, the researchers again measured the participants' views on recycling.

Results showed that participants who were told their views on recycling were based on morality were less likely to change their minds than those who were told their views were based on practical concerns.

"People held on to their moral beliefs in a way they didn't for other values we studied, like tradition, equality and practicality," Luttrell said.

"But what was remarkable was how easy it was to lead people into thinking their views were based on moral principles."

The results suggest that appeals to morality can be very effective to groups and political candidates trying to appeal to their supporters.

"People may be more willing to vote for a candidate or give money to an advocacy group if they believe it is a matter of morality," Luttrell said. "They're also less likely to be swayed by the opposition."
-end-
The study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Contact: Andrew Luttrell, Luttrell.19@osu.edu Richard Petty, 614-292-1640; Petty.1@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, 614-292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Recycling Articles:

Recycling plant material into stock chemicals with electrochemistry
While most people think of recycling in terms of the packaging for household products, the concept can extend to the chemistry to make them in the first place.
Researchers develop recycling for carbon fiber composites
A WSU research team for the first time has developed a promising way to recycle the popular carbon fiber plastics that are used in everything from modern airplanes and sporting goods to the wind energy industry.
Making bins more convenient boosts recycling and composting rates
Want to recycle or compost more? Try moving the bins closer, new UBC research suggests.
'Recycling protein' shown to affect learning and memory in mice
Learning and memory depend on cells' ability to strengthen and weaken circuits in the brain.
New polymer additive could revolutionize plastics recycling
Only 2 percent of the 78 million tons of manufactured plastics are currently recycled into similar products because polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which account for two-thirds of the world's plastics, have different chemical structures and cannot be efficiently repurposed together.
The U joins national sustainable manufacturing alliance for recycling and remanufacturing
The University of Utah joins the Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions Institute, a national coalition that aims to drive down the cost of technologies essential to reuse, recycle and remanufacture metals and other materials.
Chemistry research breakthrough that could improve nuclear waste recycling technologies
Researchers from The University of Manchester have taken a major step forward by describing the quantitative modelling of the electronic structure of a family of uranium nitride compounds -- a process that could in the future help with nuclear waste recycling technologies.
Carbon dots dash toward 'green' recycling role
Nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dots are used as electrocatalysts to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to valuable hydrocarbons like ethylene and ethanol.
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
All cells have surface membranes and maintaining the surface area of this membrane is critical to the normal functioning of cells.
Protein synthesis: Ribosome recycling as a drug target
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have elucidated a mechanism that recycles bacterial ribosomes stalled on messenger RNAs that lack termination codons.

Related Recycling Reading:

Don't Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books)
by Lara Bergen (Author), Betsy Snyder (Illustrator)

You can keep that trash and reuse it in all kinds of wonderful ways!
Do you see that old jar?
Don’t throw that away!
You can turn it into...a new vase!


Follow an eco-conscious super hero as he teaches kids how to recycle and reuse common household items! The six large flaps throughout show that oridinary trash is really a treasure. From turning old clothes into fun costumes or an old box into a brand new car, kids will learn that saving the environment is super cool! View Details


The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)
by Alison Inches (Author), Pete Whitehead (Illustrator)

Learn about recycling from a new perspective!  Peek into this diary of a plastic bottle as it goes on a journey from the refinery plant, to the manufacturing line, to the store shelf, to a garbage can, and finally to a recycling plant where it emerges into it's new life...as a fleece jacket!

Told from the point of view of a free-spirited plastic bottle, kids can share in the daily experiences and inner thoughts of the bottle through his personal journal. The diary entries will be fun and humorous yet point out the ecological significance behind each product and the resources used to... View Details


Recycling Crafts (Craft Attack!)
by Annalees Lim (Author)

Step-by-step instructions show how to reuse paper towel tubes, plastic bottles, and other recyclables found around the house to make bracelets, pencil cases, and colorful decorations. View Details


Recycling (Now We Know About. . .)
by Mike Goldsmith (Author)

Photographs and easy-to-read text help young readers learn about recycling, including paper, metal, plastic, and glass. View Details


Recycling and Upcycling: Science, Technology, Engineering (Calling All Innovators: A Career for You)
by Steven Otfinoski (Author)

From leftover food to packaging materials to outdated or broken technology, humans produce an enormous amount of waste. Readers will find out how some of todays top innovators are working to find new recycling methods and cut down on the amount of trash the ends up in landfills. They will also learn how recycling has grown in popularity over time and find out what kinds of careers are involved in this rapidly growing industry. View Details


Garbage and Recycling: Environmental Facts and Experiments (Young Discoverers: Environmental Facts and Experiments)
by Rosie Harlow (Author), Sally Morgan (Author)

Explaining the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable garbage, Young Discoverers: Garbage and Recycling by Rosie Harlow and Sally Morgan shows how glass, metal, and wool can be easily recycled. How Can I Help? boxes give suggestions for the young environmentalist who wants to recycle at home.

View Details


Human Footprint: Everything You Will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime (National Geographic Kids)
by Ellen Kirk (Author)

What is your human footprint? Well, it's 13,056 pints of milk, 28,433 showers, 12,888 oranges, 14,518 candy bars, and $52,972 worth of clothes, all in one lifetime. Makes you want to step more lightly on the planet! Perfectly timed for Earth Day, this book doesn't preach or judge, but simply shows kids—in an exciting, visual way—how humans interact with the environment and how we can lessen our impact. Astonishing photography captures the full picture of consumption, documenting all the diapers you wore as a baby, the bread you'll eat in a lifetime, and the cans you'll recycle, based on... View Details


Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States (Urban and Industrial Environments)
by Samantha MacBride (Author)

How the success and popularity of recycling has diverted attention from the steep environmental costs of manufacturing the goods we consume and discard.

Recycling is widely celebrated as an environmental success story. The accomplishments of the recycling movement can be seen in municipal practice, a thriving private recycling industry, and widespread public support and participation. In the United States, more people recycle than vote. But, as Samantha MacBride points out in this book, the goals of recycling -- saving the earth (and trees), conserving resources, and greening... View Details


Recycling Is Fun (My Little Planet)
by Charles Ghigna (Author), Ag Jatkowska (Illustrator)

Children learn that sorting recycling and giving new life to old things is not only good for the environment. It is a whole lot of fun, too! View Details


One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Picture Books)
by Miranda Paul (Author), Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrator)

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.



The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.



Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."