Empathy modulation and coalition management: an evolutionary theory of moral judgment and prejudice
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 21:38 authored by Tim Marsh
In order to generate novel theory and predictions concerning the empathetic mechanisms underlying prejudice, this thesis aimed to integrate a range of findings and insights from the largely distinct fields of social, differential, and moral psychology. Despite the enduring negative consequences of prejudice and discrimination in the modern world, the psychological mechanisms underlying group-motivated social conflicts remain poorly understood. Many obstacles to exploring these phenomena can be traced to historical divisions of subject matter between conceptually distinct research traditions, most notably between the fields of intergroup social psychology and moral psychology. Beginning with an appreciation of the neglected overlaps between these approaches, the goal of this thesis was to synthesise the insights of multiple fields in order to generate new, more conceptually robust methods of exploring human prejudice. In addition to a published introductory book chapter, the main contributions of this thesis are made by four journal articles. The first article addresses the broad topic unification in psychology, proposing some means of overcoming a range of conceptual issues that have slowed integration efforts in the past. The second article focuses more closely on the theory-driven difficulties and recent practical successes in overcoming barriers to integration in the field of individual differences, through the application of methods and principles refined by evolutionary psychologists. The third article lays the empirical groundwork for the testing of implicit racial attitudes across more than two racial groups. The fourth article builds upon these earlier tools and principles, outlining the development of a novel approach to measuring prejudice, which focuses on the modulation of subjects' sympathetic behaviour and attributions by their perception of racial group-membership. The thesis concludes with reflection on the disparate insights from social, differential, moral, and evolutionary psychology that made the development of this measurement tool possible, and the prospects of similar integrative insights in the future.