Influence of cognitive empathy on progressivism

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Clark, Charles B.
Hayes, Charles A.
Armstrong, Jacob D.
Kriz, Kenneth A.

Clark, Charles B.; Hayes, Charles A.; Armstrong, Jacob D.; Kriz, Kenneth A. 2019. Influence of cognitive empathy on progressivism. North American Journal of Psychology, vol. 21:no. 1:pp 21-38


Moral psychology is a rapidly growing topic, and moral predispositions have been linked to a variety of political and social opinions. Thus far, there has been little work conducted in an effort to identify the aspects of cognition that underlie differences in endorsement of moral ideas. This study proposes that cognitive empathy, or the ability to infer the mental states of other people, may be an individual difference which influences the information people pay attention to when they make decisions about right and wrong. Using Moral Foundations Theory as a framework, we predicted that individuals with higher scores on a cognitive empathy test would endorse the individualizing foundations to a greater degree than the binding foundations. This was found to be true across three samples (Studies 1-3). We also examined the association between the moral foundations and the second order factors of the Big Five personality trait Agreeableness (Study 2) and perception of closeness with one’s in-group (Study 3). However, less clear patterns emerged. The major finding from this study was that cognitive empathy was consistently and strongly associated with endorsement of specific moral foundations in a predictable way even when controlling for relevant demographics and Big Five personality dimensions.

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