September 17, 2021, 09:30–10:30
Room Zoom meeting
Several lines of evidence suggest that moral emotions and behaviors are regarded as reliable signals of cooperative dispositions (Uhlmann et al 2015). For example: people who make deontological moral judgments are preferred partners in economic games (Bostyn & Roets 2017, Everett et al 2016); those who express anguish when faced with moral dilemmas are regarded more favorably than those who make the same decision without distress (Tetlock et al. 2000); people prefer to maintain greater social and physical distance from those with conflicting moral convictions (Skitka et al 2005). These findings suggest that some of the distinctive features of moral psychology may be adaptations for a signaling function: to enable cooperative types to reliably identify other cooperators. In this presentation, I will review this evidence, including presenting results from a new behavioral experiment on "sacred value" attitudes, and interpret it in light of the game theoretic approach to signaling and the modelling literature on the evolution of cooperation. While the signaling hypothesis has a lot of promise to explain a range of psychological phenomena, I will argue that the evidence is relatively weak. This is not because there is significant evidence in favour of alternative theories, but because most extant empirical studies are not designed to rigorously test a signaling hypothesis. The theoretical literature makes specific predictions which, though difficult to test, should be a focus of future empirical work
Toby Handfield (School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Monash University), “Morality as an evolved signaling device: we need better evidence”, IAST General Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, September 17, 2021, 09:30–10:30, room Zoom meeting.