Psychologists claim deep link between science and morality

Xavier Symons
August 31, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Cases of scientific fraud and corruption are in the media constantly these days. But perhaps things aren't as bad as they seem.

American psychologists have released a study claiming that there is a strong link between exposure to science and moral behavior. The researchers, from the University of California Santa Barbara, conducted four large-scale experiments to identify the relationship between the two traits. The first experiment involved asking participants to comment on the about the "wrongness" of date rape, and then to describe through a questionnaire their belief in science. The other three experiments involved "social priming", in which some participants were provided with a word puzzle involving scientific words, and then asked to perform tasks involving different moral considerations.

The researchers concluded, "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."

The bold conclusions come just months after a damning report into poor experimentation techniques within the field of social psychology (particularly the sub-discipline of "priming"). Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman called for a reform of the discipline, but it is doubtful that all of his suggestions have been implemented in this study.