• Morality as coordinated punishment: the social cognition of punitive inclinations in protest movements

      Mackiel, Alex (2021-05)
      In the evolutionary sciences, morality has often been researched and understood as a collection of solutions to problems of cooperation. For instance, sharing rewards fairly and equitably among a group is a solution to the problem of how to best divide resources that have been collectively earned. However, relatively little attention has been given to how punitive moral psychology is structured around solving problems of coordination and the epistemological challenges involved in determining, judging, condemning, and punishing wrongdoers in society. The current study assesses how people’s desire to punish moral wrongdoers (i.e., punitive inclinations), is influenced by their belief that others share or do not share their moral judgment (moral convergence) and the number of moral offenders (an individual All Lives Matter protester vs. a group of All Lives Matter protesters). In this case, the moral wrongdoer stimulus was a scenario of an offensive and semi-violent All Lives Matter protest that was presented to participants. The central hypotheses are that leading people to believe that most others share their moral judgment of the protest scenario will significantly increase their desire to punish the protesters and that the number of protesters would have no effect on punitive inclinations. However, the results did not support these hypotheses, and alternatively show a significant interaction effect between moral convergence and size of the protest. Additional analyses show that moral convergence is a moderator of the relationship between moral judgment and punitive inclinations, that moral judgment is predictive of punitive inclinations, and that support for Black Lives Matter over All Lives Matter is associated with greater levels of moral judgment and punitive inclinations toward the offensive All Lives Matter protest scenario.