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Lab Philosophy

We investigate the process of moralization (when preferences become values) and its consequences for behavior, cognition, and perception. Our research investigates how context, rather than content, determines moral relevance and so we emphasize and explore the context-dependence of moral relevance, and we investigate both the processes that underlie moralization, and its applications to social issues. We use a number of different methods ranging from techniques from vision sciences and cognitive psychology, to surveys, classic social psychology lab experiments and field work. We are committed to research that is theoretically rich and pragmatically useful. We bear in mind, Lewin’s idea that “There is nothing so practical as a good theory” and James’ notion that we study the “rich thicket of reality.”

How do ideas enter the moral domain?

Broadly, my research investigates the process of moralization (when preferences become values) and its consequences for behavior, cognition, and perception. Specifically, I study what happens when we frame an idea in moral terms, specifically why, how, and when it can and can't be used to frame social issues and promote social change. To study moral framing, and specifically moral language, I utilize a number of different approaches: I examine moral words—the building blocks of moral framing—and how they are visually salient (i.e., more likely to "pop-out" in visual awareness).  I also study the consequences of using this salient language, specifically how perceptions of social issues change when they are framed in moral terms.