Moral Sense Test
Posted: 12 January 2008 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m not sure if this goes in the “entertainment” category, but I found it entertaining, so here it is.
HERE is a link to a test formulated by a Harvard psychologist named Marc Hauser.

If you are interested in taking this test, I suggest that you take it before reading any further discussion about it in the subsequent posts of this thread (if there are any).  Then you can come back and read the discussions and contribute as you please.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Thank you for that link, Erasmus.  That was really entertaining.  I sent the link to my friends and coworkers.  It is a great opportunity to be introspective.

I’d be interested in hearing other’s results if you are willing, but seeing the results before participating would compromise the test.  I think Private Messages or a related thread with disclaimers on the first page would be the best method for comparing notes.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Potential Spoiler Belowdon’t read before taking the test.


I watched a couple coworkers take this test and I am not sure if I messed up pasting the link in my email or if this test gives everyone a different test based on their answers to their demographics.  Of the 3 tests I peeked in on, all were slightly different.  My test only included the 13 questions dealing with life or death issues while their questions included eating rotten food and feeding pigs.  I assume the test is keyed based on age, country of identification and religion.  That is fascinating in itself.  Anyone else notice variation in questions?

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Posted: 15 January 2008 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes, I took the test twice because the first time I didn’t get results and the questions were different.  I also answered that yes, I had taken the test before the second time I took it.  The first time there was a question about eating a pet, and about sleeping arrangements in a family and one about theft.  The second time there were all 13 questions about taking a life to save others type thing.  So I’m not sure how I would have scored the first time.

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JF

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yeah the variation in questions is interesting.  The bigest difference I noticed was that my coworkers marked devout christian.  My questions lasted 5-10 min. while their test time was estimated at 20-25 min.  I feel bad claiming that it would be 5-10 min and it took well over that for them.  Keep this in mind if you are going to recommend this link.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Sorry, I couldn’t make it work for me even though I unblocked the popup blocker.

Occam

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Posted: 17 January 2008 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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how do you get your results when nothing happens when you hit the ‘exit’ button?  (even if you’re holding down the ctrl button as you do so)

Also…...SPOILERS.......

Did anyone else feel that the wording of some of the questions was a little ‘suspect’ at times?

SPOILER (dont read unless you want to hear the specifics of one of the questions)


For example: one of the questions was about a brother (A) who hated his brother (B).  A knows that B’s sugar bowl contains a poisonous substance that looks like sugar (it says nothing about how it got there).  B puts the substance in his coffee, drinks it, and dies.  One of the questions was worded like:  “putting the substance in coffee” (you had to judge how moral/amoral the act is).  I was left wondering…....who are they referring to?  brother B put it in his coffee, but unknowingly (how can you make a moral judgement about that?)  or are they asking about someone else putting it in there knowingly?

Did anyone else feel that there was a little ‘lack of clarity’ in any of the questions (or how they were worded) such as the above?

For the sleeping arrangement question, initially, I wanted to know how they defined ‘appropriate’, but realized that how we define it is probably part of the point, so I didn’t have an issue with that.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I should preface my remarks by indicating that I did not complete the test. 

I detected a pattern in the questions.  They appear to have been designed to establish circumstances under which you would be willing to compromise your moral principles.  I am not really comfortable answering hypothetical questions that are intended to trick me into compromising my principles.  It is very different clicking a measured response vs. performing the acts suggested by these questions.  I would hazard to say that my real life response would be very different from the responses to these questions.  Since I suspect this is true for others, I am not sure what value could be derived from examining the collected responses to this survey.

Here is how they characterize the product of this survey in the context of their study.

How can we learn about morality from hypothetical examples?

At first it may seem odd to test real-world moral intuitions with hypothetical examples, especially since the hypotheticals sometimes make unrealistic assumptions. But research in the biological and social sciences has revealed that unrealistic situations sometimes yield the best insights into real-world phenomena. For instance, humans have strong grammatical intuitions about nonsense sentences and strong visual intuitions about impossible optical illusions. The MST is exploring analogous intuitions about moral situations.

“unrealistic situations sometimes yield the best insights into real-world phenomena”

Should I read this similarly to the ill-advised manner in which people react to unrealistic scenarios portrayed on the Television show 24?  If so, how is this valuable?

“humans have strong grammatical intuitions about nonsense sentences and strong visual intuitions about impossible optical illusions”

Ok, so what does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Maybe I have become too cynical as a result of having been the victim of telephone surveys that appear to be motivated by people who have an outcome predetermined and are looking for confirmation of their beliefs.  The questions regarding religion, and the differences in the questions asked as a result (as pointed out by others in this thread), make me suspicious. 

I have been queried regarding my feelings about offshore drilling, universal health care and other topics by telephone.  I have noted in each case that the questions, and the multiple choice responses, often did not provide me an opportunity to answer in a way that was representative of my opinion on the subject.  Regardless of the motivation of the group(s) sponsoring the survey, which I may or may not agree with.

I’d be interested in seeing the results, but I am suspicious of the motivation, and would be critical of the quality of the responses based on my own reaction to the questions.  I suspect many others would have reservations about the responses they make to these questions.  My own reservations are not necessarily related to any moral questioning of my own feelings on the subject, It has more to do with the limited range of responses offered by the survey, or the nature of the premise on which the question is based.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Axegrrl - 17 January 2008 12:49 AM

?Did anyone else feel that there was a little ‘lack of clarity’ in any of the questions (or how they were worded) such as the above?

I have a hunch that a big factor in which questions were asked and especially how they were worded, hinged on how you answered your demographic pre questions.  The question you had about the coffee was in reference to person A’s action of inaction.  Person A abstained from informing person B that there was poisonous sugar, regardless of who put it their.  You were evaluating whether knowledge implies responsibility, or is lack of action moral in all cases?

I didn’t take that question.  Curious, what did you put for your religious upbringing and present religion?  How many questions did you answer in total?

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Posted: 17 January 2008 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Charles - 17 January 2008 11:44 AM

I am not really comfortable answering hypothetical questions that are intended to trick me into compromising my principles.  It is very different clicking a measured response vs. performing the acts suggested by these questions.  I would hazard to say that my real life response would be very different from the responses to these questions.  Since I suspect this is true for others, I am not sure what value could be derived from examining the collected responses to this survey.

The biggest margin of error for this test is the common problem people have with hypothetical questions.  In Philosophy these tools are helpful in isolating specific impulses.  The questions can become increasingly difficult to put yourself in the position and answer truthfully when the situations become more and more complicated and further away from the norm. 

The reason, I predict, that I was only given 13 difficult hypothetical questions is because I answered that I had read books on these dilemmas and taken courses in college.  People with less experience accepting only the variables given would need more practice warming up.  That is why there were silly questions, for some people, early on involving “pigs favorite food” and “what is your response to looking at maggots” etc.

The purpose of the experiment was to isolate the value you place on the means vs. the ends.  In a scale of 1 to 7 the average was 3.9.  I scored a 4.  I happen to know based on the devout religious people I watched take this test that they scored a 1.  This means that in their view the moral buck stops at the means while the ends are chopped up to god’s will

The difficult problem people of reason have with this is that the questions state the absolute outcome aka the ends.  This means we have the knowledge of the outcome and thus have the responsibility to act on that information.  Obviously when in these situations, we are not likely to have all this information and the results would be different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t answer the questions.  Trust me the doctors conducting this study, I’m sure, are well aware of all the variables involved you won’t mess up their study by answering what you would do given the information presented.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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retrospy - 17 January 2008 01:31 PM

The purpose of the experiment was to isolate the value you place on the means vs. the ends.  In a scale of 1 to 7 the average was 3.9.  I scored a 4.  I happen to know based on the devout religious people I watched take this test that they scored a 1.  This means that in their view the moral buck stops at the means while the ends are chopped up to god’s will

The difficult problem people of reason have with this is that the questions state the absolute outcome aka the ends.  This means we have the knowledge of the outcome and thus have the responsibility to act on that information.  Obviously when in these situations, we are not likely to have all this information and the results would be different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t answer the questions.

I’m still a little unclear on the scale.  Based on your description, it sounds as if a higher value would indicate a tendency to value the ends over the means? Is that clearly stated in the test results? 

retrospy - 17 January 2008 01:31 PM

Trust me the doctors conducting this study, I’m sure, are well aware of all the variables involved you won’t mess up their study by answering what you would do given the information presented.

I’m sure they are familiar with the variables they have anticipated.  Not sure that makes me feel any better.

They ask questions about race, religion, occupation, education, age, sex.  I presume these are all potential factors in generating questions.  If it is, as you say, based on topics you learned in school, is it then presumed that they can predict a number of things about a person from the preliminary questions that would give them reason to ask different questions?  What would these predictions be?  Are they accurate assumptions?  Are we (as atheists), so easy to categorize, that predictions of this sort would apply to us?  I find that hard to believe.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I am not involved in making the test in any way so I can’t speak as one of its creators.  But my understanding is that the designers of the test were not at all interested in affirming any particular hypotheses at the outset.  They were simply interested in examining similarities and differences between the choices made by members of different demographic groups.  My understanding is that the results were even a bit unexpected in that they demonstrated that most persons scored quite similarly, despite differences in nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, and sex.

Peter Singer mentions the test HERE

[quote author=“peter singer”]Standing next to you, however, is a very large stranger. The only way you can prevent the trolley from killing five people is by pushing this large stranger off the footbridge, in front of the trolley. If you push the stranger off, he will be killed, but you will save the other five. When asked what you should do in these circumstances, most people say that it would be wrong to push the stranger.

This judgment is not limited to particular cultures. Marc Hauser, at Harvard University, has put similar dilemmas on the web in what he calls a “Moral Sense Test,” available in English, Spanish, and Chinese ( http://moral.wjh.harvard.edu ). After receiving tens of thousands of responses, he finds remarkable consistency despite differences in nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, and sex.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I guess I am reacting to my own history with so-called moral tests.  Which have typically been implemented by people with some sort of agenda.

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Posted: 18 January 2008 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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retrospy - 17 January 2008 12:56 PM

The question you had about the coffee was in reference to person A’s action of inaction.  Person A abstained from informing person B that there was poisonous sugar, regardless of who put it their.  You were evaluating whether knowledge implies responsibility, or is lack of action moral in all cases?

See, that’s exactly what I thought the point of the question would have to be, and it seems to be the only relevant question/issue given the scenario presented.  So, why didn’t they just specify that it was the ‘action of inaction’ they were asking about?  Nothing else really makes any sense.  But as they worded it, they weren’t asking about that at all…....it was the act of putting the poison in the coffee.

I didn’t take that question.  Curious, what did you put for your religious upbringing and present religion?  How many questions did you answer in total?

Upbringing, I put Protestant Christian, and present religion, I believe I put ‘none at all’ or the one just slightly above none.

And I think I answered between 7-12 questions.  Seemed to be lots of focus on the ‘is killing one person to save more morally justifiable?’ issue.

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