An Investigation into whether psychopathic traits negatively contribute to moral judgements
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High psychopathy and low morality have been associated as potential causes of anti-social and criminal behaviour. Literature suggests that high levels of psychopathic traits have a negative effect on an individual’s ability to make rational moral judgements. Much of this research focuses on offenders, creating a gap within research encompassing the typical population and whether the same affect is observed. It was hypothesised that high levels of psychopathic traits negatively affect moral judgement, however no predictions were made regarding specific traits. A sample of 50 students, ages ranging from 18 to 44 (M= 22.18), were asked to complete two self-report scales The Triarchic Psychopathy Measure (TriPM) measured traits of meanness, disinhibition, and boldness, providing an overall score for psychopathy. The Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) measured the dimensions harm, fairness, authority, ingroup, and purity, providing an overall score for moral judgement. There was a negative correlation between psychopathy and moral values (r= -.29, p= .04), evidence that higher levels of psychopathic traits can inhibit rational moral judgements. Meanness was negatively correlated with harm (r= -.59, p= .0) and fairness (r=-.28, p= .5), suggesting that care-based judgements are hindered when an individual displays a higher level of meanness. No other significant relationships were observed highlighting the role of meanness and the importance of care-relative moral judgements. Limitations of the study are discussed, providing suggestions for future research. Overall, the study supports that psychopathic traits can negatively contribute to moral judgement, extending this finding to the typical population also.
Esser, M. (2022) 'An Investigation into whether psychopathic traits negatively contribute to moral judgements', The Plymouth Student Scientist, 15(2), pp. 547-562.
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