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The Stubbornness of Convictions with Linda Skitka

Dr. Linda Skitka is a psychology professor and associate department head at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as a professor of political science by courtesy. She has been the president of the Midwestern Psychological Association and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and an associate editor of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Social Justice Research. She has received numerous awards for her service. Her research spans a broad range of topics, but she is perhaps best known for her work on justice, the precursors and outcomes of moral convictions, attitude moralization, and how each of these relate to political ideology.

APA citation: Cazzell, A. R. (Host). (2020, March 31). The Stubbornness of Convictions with Linda Skitka [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from


Note: This transcript was generated automatically. Please excuse typos and errors.

Amber Cazzell (01:24):

Alright. Hi everybody. Today I am with the legendary Linda Skitka. I'm thrilled to be here with you. Thank you for agreeing to come on the podcast.

Linda Skitka (01:31):

Thank you for the invitation to talk to you.

Amber Cazzell (01:33):

Um so Linda and I are going to be discussing her work on moral convictions today as well as her work on attitude moralization and how that's related to political ideology. And to get started, I'd love to hear about how you became interested in moral psychology.

Linda Skitka (01:51):

I got interested in moral psychology approximately in 1990 because I got in an argument with Tom Tyler. Tyler, Tom Tyler is a very well known researcher who is best known for his theory related to procedural justice. Up through say the 1950s until about the 1980s. Theorizing a research on justice was focused on distributive justice and that is how people thought outcomes should be allocated and such as whether they should be allocated equitably according to people's contributions equally or based on need. Tom and a variety of other colleagues, roughly around 1980, came up with the idea that maybe what people care about more in deciding whether outcomes are fair or unfair is not what they get instead, how decisions are made. And the procedures that are used to decide who gets what. And their thought was that people care more about feeling belong, like they have belonging in the group.

Linda Skitka (02:54):

And that they're respected by decision-making authorities and so forth than they do about whether they get, maximize the material outcomes. And they did a lot of research suggesting that actually people really do care about procedural fairness and that if the procedures are fair, they're more willing to accept negative outcomes as nonetheless fair. Okay. Okay. So like if you, you lose a court case, for example you're more likely to think it's fair if you were treated with dignity and respect, you had an opportunity for a voice in the decision making process. Okay. And so on. And I met him for the first time and we got into a conversation about distributed versus procedural justice. And I raised the question of abortion and why is it that since 1974 and the American public does not think that that outcome is necessarily fair.

Linda Skitka (03:44):

They don't accept it as binding. Nonetheless, the us Supreme court has the highest standing and perceptions of legitimacy of any other institution in the United States, which implies that this procedure is perceived as procedurally fair. And he argued with the procedure must not have been fair and that if he could come up with a fair enough procedure, we could decide the issue of abortion once and for all. And I thought that was not likely to be the case. But that required me to come up with an explanation therefore for why I didn't think that that was the case. And that's explanation I came up with is that people have moral investment in some outcomes. So it might be one thing not to get something you prefer. It might be a whole nother experience not to get what you think is morally right. And that actually started my research in moral psychology was actually looking at people's moral investments in certain outcomes, like the idea that abortion be legal area illegal or that the defendant be punished and the innocent go free and how that served as a moderator on what was otherwise known as the fair process effect.

Amber Cazzell (04:50):

Interesting. So is your, I'm thinking of one particular publication and study that you did with moral convictions and how people place chairs in a room. Was that your first look into this?

Linda Skitka (05:02):

My first look into this was actually doing a study of a murder trial where a defendant where participants learned, okay. That insider's close to the case were quite confident. The defendant was guilty or quite confident the defendant was innocent or deeply divided about the defendant's guilt or innocence. And we have pretesting that found that everybody has a very strong moral conviction that the innocent must go free. And the guilty must be punished and frankly very little low moral investment and due process. But we put this to a couple of tests. First came up with a very procedurally unfair trial versus a very procedurally fair trial and where the defendant is either acquitted or convicted. And it turns out that the procedural fairness of the trial matter, if they were more like convicted, the defendant was really innocent and it didn't matter if there were morally convicted that the defendant was guilty.

Linda Skitka (06:06):

The only time that the fairness of the procedures mattered was when there was any ambivalence about whether the defendant was innocent or guilty. But we then wanted to put to it even stronger test. Okay. How, how egregious can the procedural violations be? So we came up with a second test whereby the defendant in every case dies. Okay. It's either through due process of law and the death penalty or through vigilantism that he is killed by the parent of the victim of the murder on the way to trial. And surely that should matter, right? Whether you die through due process of law or vigilante justice, it turns out it didn't matter. Okay. That if you were morally convicted that the defendant was truly guilty, it was equally fair whether he died through vigilante justice or due process of law. If you were morally convicted that the defendant was truly innocent, it was equally unfair regardless of whether defendant died through due process or millennialism. And the procedural fairness only mattered again if they were ambivalent about the guilt.

Amber Cazzell (07:11):

That's really interesting. Did you ever have the opportunity to take this research back to, is it Tom Tyler? I am. Oh yes. Is he still alive? I, yes, he's a professor at Yale law school. I should know this, but I clearly don't. Okay. Interesting. So do you, to still discuss this back and forth, have you, we've, we've co-taught a summer session of the summer Institute for social psychology together.

Linda Skitka (07:36):

I would say that it's been a spirited longterm relationship in terms of how we've gone back and forth in terms of the conditions when people care about procedural fairness versus outcome fairness.

Amber Cazzell (07:49):

So the next big question of course, and this does move into some of your work is how, how you're conceptualizing moral convictions and what sort of tips the scales for people between what they're morally convicted of and what is just a preference and outcome they would like to see happen?

Linda Skitka (08:08):

Well, that's a really good question. We, we so far don't know very much about the developmental trajectory of how things turn into moral convictions. We know that emotions play a very big role in it. But we do know that within any, any domain such as abortion, a certain proportion of people attitude on abortion is not going to be moralized at all. That some people just have a preference for a back stop form of birth control or self interested reasons not moral ones. And therefore their, their position on that issue are going to be on a one to five scale of how moral it would be. It would be one. Other people's position on abortion is more based in group norms. This is what people within my faith community believe and therefore I believe it too. But if leaders in the faith community might change their position on abortion, that person would probably update their position. And they also don't necessarily impose their beliefs about abortion on other people. Okay. This is what people like me believe. And then only some people see it in the domain of moral imperative. Okay.

Amber Cazzell (09:13):

And so how, like I'm thinking specifically of a paper you wrote, I think it was moral convictions, attitudes, strength or something more like that. So how, tell me a bit about that paper for listeners who aren't familiar how, how is a moral conviction different from just holding a strong attitude?

Linda Skitka (09:32):

Sure, yeah. For after working on the distributive and outcome fairness stuff for a good number of years, I got more interested in, okay, let's figure out more about what these moral convictions are. Okay. Okay. And that work really started around 2005. And it did seem like one of our first task was to distinguish it from attitudes, strength which we, we did. Okay. The whole variety of studies, for example your preferred social distance from an attitudinally dissimilar other is much greater when you have a moral conviction about an issue where social distance is defined as like what would be happy to have married into my family or move into my neighborhood or as a, as a personal friend. And we control for all kinds of dimensions of attitudes strength and, you still get unique effects of strength and moral conviction and predicting preferred social distance.

Linda Skitka (10:25):

And then later physical distance from attitude we did somewhere others and we did a number of other studies that distinguish it from attitudes, strengths and over time we've developed a, what we call a domain theory of attitudes. Building on some developmental theories actually what are the things that can differentiate between attitudes that are written preference, normative convention and moral conviction and the major things that distinguish, distinguish both theoretically and empirically moral convictions from otherwise strong but not moral attitudes is the degree to which their authority independent. Okay. Okay. Which means it really doesn't matter what authorities say. The right answer is when you have a strong moral conviction about something, you already know the right answer. You don't need the Supreme court. You don't need God even to tell you what the right answer is. You just know.

Amber Cazzell (11:16):

That's interesting. And that's the case even for people who are highly religious. Yes.

Linda Skitka (11:22):

So even some research I didn't happen to do, but some other people have done is asking very religiously observant Jews. Well what if God said it was okay to eat pork. Would it be okay? Oftentimes they will say yes. Okay. Because that's fully in the domain of normative convention. Yeah. But what if God came down today and said it was okay to murder someone? Would it be okay? They'll go, Oh, no, no. And probably think God wouldn't be God. But so even they make differentiations between things in the moral domain versus the conventional domain.

Amber Cazzell (12:00):

Yeah. Fascinating. So you said that not that much work has been done on the trajectory of moralization, but you have done a little bit, so I would love to dive into that now as well. How, what have you looked at so far in terms of how an attitude moves from just being an attitude to being a moral conviction?

Linda Skitka (12:20):

Unless you want to know the other ways first that there is a moral conviction or different than otherwise strong but not moral attitude. Yes, please. That was one. There's about four more. Okay. Maybe five. They're also more intolerant. Okay. And they're, they're not bounded by group boundaries. So I think about the example of Western feminists many of whom have a moral conviction that female circumcision is morally wrong. They may have never met any woman who has been circumcised and they may not know the cultural reasons for for why that's actually valued and the societies where it's practiced. They might not actually have done any research in terms of the health consequences of it or the consequences of it. Female sexual pleasure, they just know it's wrong. Okay. And they're happy to say and engage in intense activism activities to make it in the legal practice in a country where they have never visited, never talked to anybody.

Linda Skitka (13:13):

Okay. So, and that's a strong characteristic. The moral convictions is that they transcend boundaries. You think that this should be universally wrong. It's subjectively wrong. It should be wrong for all people everywhere. Okay. And you don't need to gather any evidence about it because it's all self-evidently wrong. And so again, this has this intolerance tie. The you're gonna be very intolerant of anybody who disagrees with you. It turns out the moral convictions also have kind of unique affective signatures. They tend to have much stronger ties with motions than the nonmoral moral, but otherwise strong attitudes. And I'm probably skipping a couple of other ones, but them up just not off the top of my head right now. But,uanyone interested in knowing a little bit more about that? I have a,uimpressed annual review chapter that is an UpToDate. Very cool. Ureview of everything we know about moral convictions so far. And your other question was where did they come from? Correct?

Amber Cazzell (14:09):

Yeah. How, how they develop. And I know you had said that there's not a whole lot of research out there yet, but you've started some.

Linda Skitka (14:17):

Yes. no, I don't know of anybody who's doing it developmentally over the lifespan. So like, okay, when does it emerge? Adolescents, for example, on other, we do know that even young children about at age four can differentiate between a conventional violation and a moral violation. But that's about the extent of it. But we've been studying moralization in the lab and what predicts a strengthening of moral convictions in the lab. And in one study, I'm the lead author on this one was Dan Wisneski, we studied what would lead to changes in people's moral conviction about abortion. And based on Jonathan Haidt's work we we're focused on the idea of discussed, but also we're interested in the role of potential harm based on Kurt Gray's dyadic Mar model of morality. We're also interested in could this really be an intuitive process or did it take some form of cognitive resources?

Linda Skitka (15:17):

And for a variety of reasons, we already knew that incidental cues were probably unlikely to move moral convictions. And in unpublished work that we did. We had done a whole host of studies where we're introducing people to discuss discuss manipulations in the lab. For example, the far spray versus not parts by, by the way, don't ever do frat straight in your lab. It doesn't not come out of your upholstery, does not come out of your carpet. It doesn't really smell like farts. It's but it really smells chemically. And if you really want to do bad smells, there's turns out there's crystalline stuff that you can buy that only smells when air is moving over it. So we did that one. We got dead rat smells, Oh gosh. Versus Hawaiian breeze. We had people up to their elbows and Elmers glue and gummy worms and stuff like that to again, instigate the SKUs versus feathers and beads.

Linda Skitka (16:09):

We had people remember autobiographical experiences have discussed, fear, happiness, anger, none of these kinds of incidental discussed things or or affect or physiological arousal. Things were moving around people's moral convictions at all were, but they do tend to move around severity of moral judgment or at least in some cases. So we thought we're obviously doing something terribly wrong. And it finally occurred to us as that the studies where they do find differences of moral judgments as a function of all these kinds of incidental discust cues were really novel judgments. Right? You know, there were the kind of height moral dilemmas about is incest between two consenting siblings wrong. People probably haven't really thought hard about that, so they don't, there was not a lot of baggage, Um whereas like.

Amber Cazzell (17:01):

Interesting, it seems like it falls in that ambiguous zone you were talking about earlier maybe.

Linda Skitka (17:04):

Exactly. whereas if you ask somebody if their attitude about abortion or even social security, they already have attitudes and they already have lots of probably emotional and cognitive associations and memory with us. And those probably Trump any kind of incidental cues, like whether you smell fart spray in the room. Yeah. And which led us to hypothesize that maybe the emotional cues had to be relevant to the attitude object itself. So only disgust cues associated with abortion might move around abortion moral conviction. So what we did is we came up with a variety of cues one sort of cues were pictures of fetuses that were very disgusting harm inducing them bloody became equally bloody and harm inducing. Pictures of animals, animal rights abuses, a variety of harm. I'm sorry, disgust no harm cues like pictures from my apps of toilets completely overflowing with feces.

Linda Skitka (18:14):

We have a lot of fun in my labs. And we also then had, you know neutral neutral cues and we came up with a task where we told people what their task was is to differentiate between stimuli that we're going to vary in terms of whether they were pictures of words and that we're going to present them to them pretty fast. And all they had to do is designate picture word and this is just to expose them to the images. But we did that at speeds that were at just levels of conscious awareness or outside levels of conscious awareness. Okay. So and if the cue is outside of conscious awareness moralized that would be evidenced in supportive in tuition tuition. And actually if the incidental we'll discuss cues more or less that would also be evidence in support of intuition. Yeah. and then we had this big full story of a big separate second study where we actually took people's attitudes about a variety of attitude objects, including abortion. And what we found is that people's moral convictions only increased after exposure to the aborted fetuses and at the conscious levels of awareness.

Amber Cazzell (19:28):

Yeah. That's and what did you make of that? Were you surprised or was that largely what you had anticipated after all the attempts?

Linda Skitka (19:35):

So get into dental, discuss work. We were pretty sure it was going to be integral affect associated with attitude, object w if anything was going to work that that would be it. We were completely open ended about whether you could get it under unconscious versus conscious levels of awareness. We did also do pilot studies to make sure that we were successfully arousing disgust in the unconscious conditions. We had P gave people exposure to that same set of stimuli and we had them then write abstract paintings in terms of what emotion they thought the artist was attempting to depict. And they had a range of emotions including discussed. People were more likely and all the three disgust conditions even at unconscious levels awareness where they weren't aware of what they were saying. To say that the artist was trying to depict disgust. So we feel reasonably confident that we arise discussing those conditions. We replicated this study and measured mediators. And it turned out that the effects were mediated by disgust and not by harm.

Amber Cazzell (20:41):

Wow. Wow. As you're talking about this, it's making me about it. I'm just struck by how rigid these moral convictions seem to be that they don't move around. And I'm wondering what your thoughts are about a lot of literature on situationism because a lot of a lot of literature and morality is focused on how much these things can shift and roll convictions just can't. So is it, what is it about moral convictions that you think makes them rigid? Is it this process of using cognition and emotion? Like, I guess it's a vague question, but I just want to get your take on that.

Linda Skitka (21:24):

Again. at least you know, the most attitude objects that we've been studying have been political attitude objects. And I think most people have already thought about what their opinions are on those issues. And maybe rehearse it a lot. You know, especially if you're morally convicted about it, you probably encounter that attitude objects in your everyday life and therefore it becomes really entrenched in memory. You, you know, how you feel about this issue. It doesn't mean it can't maybe get intensified under some conditions like threat, but you know, again, compare, compare that to the moral judgment domain. Most people have never had to choose whether to pull a lever to save, you know, one man to sacrifice to five. This is not a well-rehearsed situation for them. So I think there's a very big distinction between attitudes that we carry around with us and their day to day lives and, and think about a lot and are exposed to a lot relative to these kinds of moral judgment domains.

Amber Cazzell (22:21):

Have you done any work on attitude demoralization? Cause it does seem that people over time can lose convictions. Maybe they still have an attitude but they don't seem quite as rigid on them anymore.

Linda Skitka (22:36):

We do have some data not yet published on attitude demoralization in the context of the same sex marriage debate. Okay. That in particular opponents to same sex marriage to some degree when it didn't turn out to be the Supreme court decisions didn't in signal the end of the world. We do have some evidence that opponents the same sex marriage did demoralize.

Amber Cazzell (22:58):

And is that, have you done anything with the process of that? Is the process,

Linda Skitka (23:04):

This was largely through affect of forecasting failure. Okay. Then when the outcome turned out not to be as horrible as they anticipated it was, we saw some, some decrease in the moral conviction.

Amber Cazzell (23:15):

Okay. And so demoralization might be just a function of what social norms you're in and how those emotions actually how you actually feel in that environment at the time or is it like it becomes overtaken by associating like intolerance of same sex marriages with disgust and cognitively reflecting on that?

Linda Skitka (23:42):

What it turned out to be in this case is again, people expected to outraged. They expected things to be bad and it wasn't as bad as they thought it was. Feinberg at all recently came out with a paper on attitude moralization of meat consumption and they found in some cases they got reactance. Which I'm not entirely sure is attitude demoralization and we're suspicious. And we actually have just recently theorized that we think that the processes that lead to attitude moralization and demoralization are likely to be somewhat different. Okay. That, for example, the was Wisneski et al study with the abortion stuff, you know, that was happening very quickly, very viscerally. It may have required some cognitive resources, but it was, this is, will not people were not thinking carefully about a whole bunch of material before changing their positions on or the moral convictions on abortion were guessing. The two demoralize, however, you're probably gonna have, it's going to be a really deep cognitive process and you're going to have to be exposed to an awful lot of counter attitudinal information. And I'm guessing you would have to do the emotional lies. It, you would have to somehow dial back all of your emotions about it and get into the zone of moral uncertainty. So I, I expected to be a big, much bigger challenge demoralize than it is to moralize.

Amber Cazzell (25:07):

Yeah. So I'd like to shift gears to the relationship between moral convictions and actually taking political action. And, and just your thoughts on moral convictions and political polarization. Cause I'm sure this is just a rich environment for you to do your research right now. So what have you looked at as far as how moral convictions can influence social and political engagement?

Linda Skitka (25:37):

Oh, we've got all kinds of studies on how moral convictions facilitate political engagement. Starting from the 2000 presidential election, we have collected data in almost every election. First one we did was moral convictions about candidates and the degree to which that would predict voting in the election. We've also collected moral convictions about issues and whether those hot button issues in the election cycle and whether those would predict voting and even controlling for strength of partisanship and strength of candidate preferences. Knowing the degree to which people's feelings about their preferred and non-preferred candidates or moral convictions predicts voting intentions. We've done a whole series of other studies that have looked at more people's willingness to engage in activism. And one study I particularly like was done in the context of the lead up to the legalization of same sex marriage.

Linda Skitka (26:36):

We did this study when about six States that legalized same sex marriage and the variety of the rest of the United States and not which gave us an opportunity to control for status quo. So whether people were fighting for legalizing it or for fanning it cause that might be different. So we got equal numbers of males and females supporters and opposers of same sex marriage and States that had either legalized or had not legalized same sex marriage and the very, really large quota sample of about 1500 people. And again, we were trying to predict people's willingness to engage in activism around the issue through a number of different mediators. And we were interested whether these effects were mediated through the perceived harms of not getting their policy preferred policy outcome, the perceived benefits of the preferred policy outcome. We also explored the roles of anticipated regret of failing to become involved and just anticipated pride at becoming involved.

Linda Skitka (27:40):

And this was kind of a test of again, the dyadic model of morality was harmed going to be, you know, everything or and then Jenny, Janoff-Bulman and Karns also have a moral motives theory that suggests that morality can come in approach oriented forms as well as avoidance or an informs. But the liberals were more, more likely to do the approach that was Janoff-Bulman's conclusion and conservatives should be more likely to go through avoidance. Okay. And could you expand on what you mean by that? For sure. So the prediction there were if Janoff-Bulman's moral motives theory was true, what you would predict is that moral conviction would be associated with greater perceived harms and greater political engagement on the part of conservatives. The moral conviction for liberals should be associated with greater perceived benefits of one prefers policy outcome.

Linda Skitka (28:40):

And that in turn would predict political engagement. Okay. So her prediction is that the pathways for liberals and conservatives will look quite different. And in a related vein conservatives should be more motivated by anticipated regret. Liberals should be more motivated by anticipated pride. Okay. Okay. If these approach and avoidance motivations really ideologically differ and what we found was no evidence of ideological differences at all everything was the same. For liberals and conservatives and the only pathway that did not predict more or less political engagement was the perceived harms of people's non-preferred policy outcomes. Okay. The perceived benefits of your preferred one anticipated pride and anticipated regret all predict greater political engagement. Okay. And we subsequently replicated that with people's positions on concealed carry on college campuses. I thought was that maybe that would pull harder for harm. Harm just didn't predict it.

Amber Cazzell (29:38):

So I mean, were you surprised by that?

Linda Skitka (29:42):

Um to be Frank, yeah.

Amber Cazzell (29:43):

Yeah. And I'm, I'm surprised disgust has been so strong in all of this too. I guess that wasn't specifically discussed, but it strikes me as funny that harm a lot of your research is showing that harm doesn't seem to matter as much to people as we previously thought and yet disgust does. And I'm wondering why you think that might be,

Linda Skitka (30:06):

But we also didn't explore more approach or other kinds of emotions in those studies. So I think the story here is that emotions really seem to be predicting what's going on. But the story is really complicated. Okay. Cause other research that we did over the 2012 election cycle studied the roles of enthusiasm for one's preferred political candidate hostility towards one preferred candidate, fears about either candidate perceived harms of what they think would happen if you elected that candidate. And perceived benefits of electing, I'm sorry, harms of non-preferred candidate benefits of preferred candidate.

Linda Skitka (30:49):

And what you find there is only the only emotions predict increased moralization over the election cycle. Okay. And this very specific increase the enthusiasm you get become more morally convicted about your preferred candidate, increased hostility you get morally convicted about your non preferred candidate. Fear doesn't do anything. But it's disgust was a possibility in this study. It just didn't emerge as a relevant variable at all. So emotions lead to changes, a moral conviction changes a moral conviction over the election cycle. However, lead to increased perceptions of harm of your non preferred candidate, increased benefits of your preferred candidate as well as increases in hostility and enthusiasm. So the harms and benefits are coming out as consequences of increased moralization but they're not antecedents of it interesting. At least that's one place where harms are coming in so far.

Amber Cazzell (31:41):

So where are you taking all of this research now? What are you thinking about and researching these days? And

Linda Skitka (31:47):

Right now I'm really interested in the attitude moralization and demoralization and so we are starting up a new line of research that I'm trying to figure out what are the conditions, additional conditions when you can dial it up. But I'm even more interested right now in how do you dial it down.

Amber Cazzell (32:03):

Okay. And so you spoke about that a little bit. Is there more to add to that?

Linda Skitka (32:08):

We are in early, early days. I do have some hypotheses partly trying to sort out the differences between our work, which seems to suggest that it's emotion, emotional, visceral and easy. Whereas Feinberg et al's meat moralization paper in particular, they had people throughout they changed people's moralization meat consumption largely through an entire semester of exposure to messages and one study and the other one, it was through exposure to like seven different videos over a period of months.

Amber Cazzell (32:43):

Yeah. Could you tell me a bit about that study? I'm not familiar with it.

Linda Skitka (32:47):

You know, it was these intense longterm interventions which kind of suggests, you know, that their assumption was that this was going to be a heavy lift. And it seemed to be a heavy lift. They found evidence for harm in that in that instance as well as emotions.

Amber Cazzell (33:05):

Well, what were they testing? What was the point of their study in the first place?

Linda Skitka (33:08):

They wanted to they wanted to change people's attitudes about me consumption and demoralized people's you know, moralize the objections to eating meat. Okay. So that's a big challenge. You're trying to flip an attitude at the same time. Moralize it. Yeah. and what occurred to us is that there's a big difference between most people's feelings about consuming meat and for example, us starting with abortion attitudes or candidate preferences. And that isn't me consumption. For the vast majority of Americans is a really strong preference. Okay. And it's associated with pleasure. There's no moral recognition for the vast majority of meat eaters that consuming meat could be a moral issue. Whereas you would have to be completely socially isolated not to have some moral recognition that abortion can be moralized. Yeah. And so we're not the first to say that there might be a difference between moral recognition and moral amplification.

Linda Skitka (34:16):

Chelsea Schein has suggested that as well. But that's what we're starting to think that what happened to the Feinberg study is that they first had to get people to even recognize moral significance of the issue before moralization could occur, which I think is likely to be a much more cognitive process. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, to really undo people's strong preferences. You're, you're not going to be able to do that with a, just a flash of intuition.

Amber Cazzell (34:43):

Did they talk about that process?

Linda Skitka (34:46):

No. But it's kind of baked in and their assumption in terms of how they, the interventions they did right.

Amber Cazzell (34:51):

And it was successful?

Linda Skitka (34:52):

They, they did get some. Yeah. and through the processes largely of harm recognition emotions and to some degree moral piggybacking making, attaching it to some other moral value that people already attached. Whereas in our case we didn't have to work on moral recognition.

Linda Skitka (35:09):

We just had to ramp it up from like maybe a slight moral conviction to something higher. And so we were theorizing that those are two very distinct processes. And so the main of the starting attitude really matters. They start in the domain of preference. Maybe have had a few people in domain of preference, but more of our people were probably in the domain of convention or weak moral recognition. And the processes associated with moral amplification are therefore likely to be more effectively driven than those for moral recognition, which are more likely going to have to require repeated exposure to information, a lot of cognitive processing, a lot of harm recognition and stuff.

Amber Cazzell (35:52):

Do you think that with respect to political polarization on issues like abortion, do you think that it's possible to depolarize while still maintaining moral convictions?

Linda Skitka (36:07):

Very skeptical.

Amber Cazzell (36:08):

Very skeptical. Okay. And so from a normative, I'm, I'm just asking your normative opinion here. Like, would you think the ideal world people would not have moral convictions, they would just have strong attitudes or?

Linda Skitka (36:23):

That's a really, yeah, that's a really tough question. There's more convictions are associated with a lot of things that are normally not very attractive, like rigid and tolerance. Acceptance of violent means to achieve morally preferred ins. Which would lead one to suggest that maybe these are not a good thing. On the other hand, moral convictions are also associated with moral conviction. Willingness to fight for one's idea of what a more just impair world would be. I'm skeptical you would have political engagement and really willingness to change social systems without moral convictions. And would you really want to be friends with someone who wasn't morally convicted about anything?

Amber Cazzell (37:03):

Right. It seems like it's part and parcel with human nature in a way.

Linda Skitka (37:08):

All right. At least of, you know, moral leadership.

Amber Cazzell (37:11):

Yeah. Yeah. So what do you make of the relationship between morality and intolerance? There's a lot of people, a lot of people think of intolerance as a morally negative thing. But I was speaking with Jennifer Cole, Wright who's talking about how the domain of morality is in some ways designed to be intolerant to kind of get everybody on in the same boat as far as normative behaviors go. So yeah,

Linda Skitka (37:45):

Which makes sense to me. Should we be tolerant of murders

Amber Cazzell (37:50):

Right. Probably not.

Linda Skitka (37:52):

And to the extent that we're throwing people who disagree with us on other morally loaded issues into the same boat, Mmm. You know, there's all kinds of things like should we be tolerant of yes, neo-Nazis who are exterminating the Jews. Yeah. I guess neo-Nazis are inappropriate, but historically Nazis who were exterminating the Jews. So I think that probably our, our moral intolerance is highly sensitized to try to serve as a kind of way to maintain the moral perimeter of what we're going to consider acceptable conduct.

Amber Cazzell (38:34):

So I guess I'm how you're hoping your research would be applied for the world.

Linda Skitka (38:42):

I guess I don't think a lot about that. That this really has been descriptive in terms of trying to understand the nature of ideological disagreements to some degree and how they become quite so impassioned. So and moral conviction was a factor that just had not been explored before. So the, I guess the applied implications will be under case of extreme effect of polarization is how do you dial?

Amber Cazzell (39:09):

Yeah. Okay. And what about for basic research? What's your hope for how other researchers will pick up on your work and build off of it?

Linda Skitka (39:17):

I do think that the, the next really big questions are really on understanding the moralization and demoralization processes. I would really like to some developmental research on it that when do strong moral convictions emerge. And I'm particularly interested in how moral convictions emerged during people's political development to the extent that adolescents become aware of politics and controversial issues in adolescence. Which ones are they gonna moralize well what function does that serve?

Amber Cazzell (39:50):

Do you have any hunches about the developmental trajectory?

Linda Skitka (39:57):

I wish I'd had more hunches, but I'm obviously not a good developmentalist, but I wonder to some degree if it has to do with optimal distinctiveness.

Amber Cazzell (40:09):

What is optimal distinctiveness?

Linda Skitka (40:11):

Um as a Marilyn Brewer idea that people need to maintain some sense of themselves as distinct from their groups, but also blending in with their groups and there's a tension there. Okay. So you might adopt the moral convictions of your group in order to blend in, but another hand you might pick one to be optimally distinctive to, you know that this is one way that I am very different from my group.

Amber Cazzell (40:35):

Hm. So like part of identity formation in a way. Very interesting.

Linda Skitka (40:39):

And people may only need to discover one or two things to feel morally convicted about that it might serve an identity function of like, okay, I'm willing to take a stand on some things and not always go along with the crowd.

Amber Cazzell (40:50):

Yeah, that's fascinating though, because it does happen at a time. I mean, I'm thinking of identity formation taking place in a time where you're also extremely self conscious and imagining, expressing an opinion that is controversial. That seems particularly scary at that point in a person's development.

Linda Skitka (41:12):

But I wonder how often it happens as a way to separate from your parents. Yeah. That you're going to pick one issue with which you're going to really disagree with your parents and see if you see your position on as being morally superior.

Amber Cazzell (41:23):

Yeah. Wow. Okay. Cool. Well, thank you so much, Linda. I really appreciate your time and the conversation and getting to discuss this cool research that I've read over the years with the actual source. So thank you so much.

Linda Skitka (41:36):

You are more than welcome.


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