Moral Judgement and Behaviour (PSYL10148)

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Moral Judgement and Behaviour (PSYL10148)


Semester 1, Tuesday 11:10am-1:00pm

BPS core areas - Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology 


What will be covered?

This course will cover developmental, cognitive/cogneuro, and social psychological approaches to moral judgement (primarily) and behaviour (secondarily). This will include several of the main theoretical models in moral judgement, including dual process models, the Social Intuitionist Model, Moral Foundations Theory, and computational models of moral judgement of various sorts. The behavioural and neuroimaging evidence will be explored to relate these models to each other. We will also examine the socio-cognitive factors impacting justice/fairness judgements (distributive, procedural, and retributive justice), as well as the moral disengagement (and related processes) that lead to organizational corruption and mass atrocity. Pro-social helping/altruism will also be covered, if time/progress permit.

How will it be delivered?

Lecture with discussion breaks built-in as time/progress allows. If progress (i.e. students feel comfortable that they understand material paced as currently planned) and course size permit, small group exercises will provide practice with formative feedback on the type of application to non-research issues that is part of both the midterm and final assessments. If this is not feasible, then a more lecture oriented approach will be used to give examples and formative advice on this type of exercise.

Lecture reconding policy: Lectures will be recorded.

What skills will be gained?

Skills taught/developed within this course include hierarchical information integration, viz. empirical results and theoretical models; critical analysis; structuring arguments to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of competing theoretical models; and writing skills.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & understanding of key debates in moral psychology.

2. Relationships between computational models and verbal models with respect to empirical results.

3. Understanding of distinction, and relationship, between descriptive models and normative models in developing scientific theory.

4. Ability to evaluate theoretical debates in light of ambiguous/conflicting evidence (i.e. issues currently not settled).

5. Understanding of relationship between moral psychology and wider issues in cognitive science (i.e. dual-process models of information processing, etc.).


30% Mid-term Take-home Short Answers (10 short answers; submission deadline Thursday 17th October, 12.00 noon)

Ten short answer (4-5 sentences max) questions composed of a mix of direct questions about covered material and questions requiring applying these concepts to ongoing current or significant past events (e.g. climate change denial, institutional misogyny, genocide, etc.). The questions are released one day in advance. 

Mid-term short answers will have correct answers posted and formative in-class feedback regarding most common mistakes/misunderstandings and why some answers (presented anonymously and edited sufficiently to ensure anonymity and enhance didact value) did (not) earn maximum points.

70% Final Exam (December Exam Diet)

2 hr Exam. The exam has two sections. Section 1 (60%) will require students to answer one essay question out of a choice of three. Section 2 (40%) will require students to complete 10 short answer questions identical in format to the mid-term, though slightly easier given exam conditions (as opposed to take-home).

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

Midterm assessment (short answers) links to LOs 1, 2, 3, & 5.

Finalexam links to all of them (i.e. including 4).

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

Baron, J. (1995). A psychological view of moral intuition. Harvard Review of Philosophy, p. 36-40.

Graham, J., Nosek, B. A., Haidt, J., Iyer, R., Koleva, S., & Ditto, P. H. (2011). Mapping the moral domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 366-385.

Cushman, F. (2013). Action, outcome, and value: A dual-system framework for morality. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17, 273-292.

Darley, J. M. (2005). The cognitive and social psychology of contagious organizational corruption. Brooklyn Law Review, 70, 1177-1194.

Doris, J. M. & Murphy, D. (2007). From My Lai to Abu Ghraib: The moral psychology of atrocity. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 25-55.

Resources list:


27/08/2019 - 2:35pm