Five moral foundations in trouble: an alternative model for MFQ

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Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) – one of the most influential theories in moral psychology – empirically relies on the Moral Foundation Questionnaire (MFQ) to map differences in human morality across the cultures and within societies. The theory assumes five module-like moral domains, developed over human evolutionary history, upon which culturally unique moralities are built: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. These domains are embedded in two broad areas of “Individualizing” and “Binding” morality. In the former, the individual is at a center of harmful and/or unfair treatment, and in the latter, the community is in focus under domains of loyalty, authority, and purity. The MFQ has mostly been used to shed light on a link between morality and political ideology, but its use much wider including religion and culture aspiring to be a universal instrument for mapping human morals across the cultures. However, the main trouble with MFQ as a valid and reliable instrument, as studies using MFQ show, is a poor fit between the moral domains model on the one hand and the data on the other, which has been neglected in the research. This poor fit is indicated by low Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI), indicating that five-factor model does not correspond the actual way people think about the moral issues as captured by MFQ and five-domain model has been overestimated in research. Based on recent development in factorial statistics, we tested (N=478) more enhanced and suitable models (e.g., two-tier model) and used more efficient measures of internal reliability (Omega Index, Hierarchical Omega Index and Explained Common Variance). According to results, people think about moral issues rather in dimensions of an individual or collective morality in congruence with Individualizing and Binding morality. Broader implications of results for MFQ, MFT, and research of morality are discussed.
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