New Research Reveals Moral Stances Make For Better Arguments

Simply telling people that their opinions are based on morality will make them stronger and more resistant to counterarguments, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people were more likely to act on an opinion – what psychologists call an attitude – if it was labeled as moral and were more resistant to attempts to change their mind on that subject.

The results show why appeals to morality by politicians and advocacy groups can be so effective. Andrew Luttrell is the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University.

In one experiment, 183 college students read an essay favoring the adoption of a senior comprehensive exam policy at their university. They were asked to provide their thoughts in response to the essay.

The students were then told by the researchers that the views they expressed seemed to be based on morality, tradition or equality.

Participants were then asked to rate how willing they would be to sign a petition in favor of the exam policy and to put their names on a list of students who favor the exam policy, and which way they would vote on the issue.

The results showed that the attitudes of students who were told that their views on the exam policy were based on morality were more likely to predict their behavior than the attitudes of students who were told their views were based on equality or tradition.