Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Moral Intuition and Social Media




If you've read my posts on Scott's World of Weather, you've probably seen my posts on psychology and how it related to how we perceive the weather. In that vein, I just read a great article on how we react to situations. The premise of the article is: WE REACT TO SITUATIONS AT WORK, AT HOME, ON THE STREET, ETC WITH OUR MORAL INTUITION FIRST AHEAD OF OUR CONSCIOUS MORAL REASONING. The author uses the term 'Social Intuitionism".

The article stems from a book by Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist who theorizes that our moral intuition reacts before any moral reasoning takes place. This might seem like common sense. Yet he surmises that our moral reactions are more "similar to sensations of taste". He identifies 6 of these "moral taste receptors": HARM, FAIRNESS, LIBERTY, AUTHORITY, LOYALTY and SANCTITY. His book describes how these societal traits evolved from basic behaviors like "protecting our children, forming coalitions, forming hierarchies, etc" just to name a few. Its theorized that these moral intuitions evolved from the primal behaviors which our human ancestors needed for basic survival.

I couldn't help but think about how our Social Networking behavior online often follows the same pattern.  Take Facebook comments for example. How many times have you posted some innocuous message on Facebook or Twitter where the comments are driven by the aforementioned "moral intuition"?  People seem to let their moral intuition guide their comments before their moral reasoning/rational side can have a say. Perhaps its a derivative of our ancestral survival instinct. The difference is Social Media is not a "life or death" activity. Yet many of us treat as such.

How often do we see people comment with their emotions first? Not much.

How often do we see people evoke some preconceived notion in a comment instead of rationalizing their viewpoint? Not much.

Conversely, how often do we see people let their rational side guide their comments before their emotion or--as the author of the book states--moral intuition impulsively takes over? Not much.

Let's stretch out the author's findings over a larger component of the social sciences. Politicians feed on our "moral intuition" by talking about issues in such a way as to cater to a specific demographics propensity for quick judgments Whether a person is left leaning or right leaning, the idea of a moral intuition--quick judgments before cognitive reasoning--applies.

Why does this matter? The more we have an understanding of how our consciousness works, the better our interactions with other in high pressure environments.

Some thoughts as I head out to Progressive Field where I will no doubt pull a hammy.

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