Thursday, November 13, 2008

The TED Talks - Five Channels of Morality

Howard linked to this TED Talk in a Comment on a previous Topic. I think it is worthy of being a new Topic so I am copying it here, along with Joel's positive Comment as well as my favorable take on it.

Jonathan Haidt's views on the five channels of morality were previously posted by Stu. Howard also posted a previous link to a TED talk on memes. If Howard, Joel, Stu, and Ira agree on the importance of a concept, and the value of TED talks, we can't all be wrong, can we? ("Great minds think alike" but "fools seldom differ" or something like that :^)

Please view the 19-minute TED video because it is definitely worth your time.

Here is my short version, using screen captures from the video with some annotation I added.

The image above shows what Haidt posits are the five channels or tools or foundations of traditional morality: 1) Harm-Care, 2) Fairness-Reciprocity, 3) Authority-Respect, 4) Ingroup Loyalty, and 5) Purity-Sanctity.

The graph shows the result of over 23,000 US respondants who took the online test at http://www.yourmorals.org/

You may want to take the test and report your personal results here as a Comment.

Haidt points out that self-described liberals rate Harm and Fairness very high.

They rate Authority, Ingroup, and Purity very low.

Conservatives rate all nearly equally, with Harm at the top and Fairness at the bottom, but all in a tight range.

Moderates score between the extremes.

The final image indicates why liberals reject three of the five tools of traditional morality, in Haidt's view:


LIBERALS REJECT> Ingroup Loyalty (they CELEBRATE DIVERSITY)

LIBERALS REJECT> Authority-Respect (they QUESTION AUTHORITY)

LIBERALS REJECT> Purity-Sanctity (they say KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF MY BODY)





HOWARD'S COMMENT
Ira exhibits another C- vs. L-mind difference that...
November 12, 2008, 9:46:00 PM(Howard Pattee)

Ira exhibits another C- vs. L-mind difference that I think makes sense. C-minds make judgments based on the past performance over a lifetime.

L-minds make judgments based on the potential of youth for the future. If I judged my students on C-mind criteria, I would fail as a teacher.

Here is a TED talk about C- and L-minds that I think pretty much covers the conclusions of our own discussions, except that it does appear liberally biased to some conservatives. Remember, he is speaking to an audience that is mostly liberal. The comments are also interesting.

In this post-US-election week, TED is passionately discussing Jonathan Haidt's talk on the difference between liberals and conservatives.


JOEL'S COMMENT
Howard said:If I judged my students on C-mind crit...
November 13, 2008 (joel)

Howard said: If I judged my students on C-mind criteria, I would fail as a teacher. Here is a TED talk about C- and L-minds that I think pretty much covers the conclusions of our own discussions, except that it does appear liberally biased to some conservatives. Remember, he is speaking to an audience that is mostly liberal. The comments are also interesting.

Joel responds: Thanks for the citation. I think it was an excellent presentation. I especially liked the fact that he tied the prewired part of morality to evolution. Although he and the audience (or his expectation of the audience) appear to be L-minds, the theory itself seems pretty free of bias to me.As for judging students, it seems to me that you aren't making allowances for ALL of Haidt's five criteria.

A C-mind would also be concerned with fairness and therefore judge based upon the current course only.

I've seen teachers (both L-minds and C-minds) make allowances, based upon excellent performance in previous courses. I condemn such a practice (although frankly I've occasionally been a beneficiary as a student).

On the other hand, the grade point average is cumulative. It's the appropriate measure for recruiters and graduate school admission. I must say that I've seen recruiters give somewhat more weight to the last year. I've also seen a recruiter overlook lackluster academic achievement based upon a candidate's impressive performance at the interview. Is the latter situation comparable to the selection of Obama over McCain?

With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein


NOTE: See the : Morality profiles of the participants in this cross-discussion.

11 comments:

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard said: "L-minds make judgments based on the potential of youth for the future. If I judged my students on C-mind criteria, I would fail as a teacher."

Do I read you correctly that you would give an A to a student who attended infrequently, failed to submit some assignments and/or had mediocre exams so long as he or she was well-spoken and you judged him or her to be extremely intelligent?

Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I think a student should be graded according to what he or she accomplished in the given class during the given semester.

As you know, my wife and I each currently teach online grad courses in system and software engineering at the University of Maryland. Sometimes one of us will have a very good student, or a very bad one, and we will ask each other if they had that student in a previous semester. We do this to confirm and better understand, if we can, what we have observed in the present semester.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track points for exams, the student Research Paper and weekly conference attendance/participation. Although I ask students to post their Bio with a Photo (optional) and I have an "icebreaker" exercise in the first week to get to know each other, I am very careful to grade their work in as objective a manner as possible.

For example, 40% of the grade is for their Research Paper and I score it separately for Form, Content and Contribution. The paper can be total nonsence and still get a good Form grade if it lacks typos, has a figure or table in it, uses correct citation and referencing, and generally looks professional. It can get a good Content grade even if it is totally copied from some published source. It can get a good Contribution grade if the student has come up with some unique fact-based ideas or organized published data in a revealing way, even if the Form is bad, etc. I do this to force myself to be objective.

In the usual face-to-face class a small percentage of the students think fast and speak well and they tend to dominate classroom discussion. That was great for me but not so good for shy students or English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

In online classes, there is also a small percentage who write well, but, since students have all week to compose their *required* postings, even shy, ESL students have a good chance to contribute on a more level playing field. I read every word and I cut quite a bit of slack on proper English for ESL students so long as I can understand their points.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

My comment that I don’t judge students by past performance is based on my experience that academic grades are a bad predictor of long term success in life. I have been on many admissions committees, and I have found that conservative professors tend to evaluate students more heavily on quantitative “hard” evidence of past performance, like grades, while liberal professors are more willing to “take a chance” on their instinctive feelings.

Similarly in class, conservative professors rely more on objective quantitative tests (as Ira illustrates)than liberal professors who rely more on subjective term papers. Many liberal professors don’t like grades at all, like our late Professor Walter Lowen.

As a young teacher I conservatively paid attention to student grades because I did not have confidence in, or perhaps awareness of, my instincts. Later, I gradually learned from experience that the essay or the interview with a student provided more instinctive clues of important intellectual and motivational qualities that grades do not reveal. I now find that judging a person’s potential by the standard quantitative measures is seldom as valid as an experienced instinct.

This relation between basic evolutionary instincts and experience is very complex. In some cases, I have been mistaken because people can really change ― young students especially. Just as some people are “born again” in the religious sense, I have seen students “born again” in an intellectual or motivational sense, and that kind of change alters their whole life. Clearly, there are also internal and external life-changing events that make grades irrelevant. Both McCain and Obama have told about such events in their life.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Howard for explaining your comment about grades. I agree that admission committees should look at more than just raw grades and standardized test scores.

Indeed, McCain was a screw-up and five from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy (and would have been expelled had his dad and granddad not been Admirals), while Obama earned high grades at Harvard (and a coveted position on the Law Review).

Would you agree that once a student is admitted and appears in my class or yours, we have a duty to objective evaluation?

I am sure you instinctively liked some students from the get-go and had an aversion to others. Whether it is their smile (or frown), attentiveness and participation (or not), nice clothes (or sloppy), good looks (or ugly), well enunciated English (or mumbled or heavily accented), etc., I cannot help developing an emotional attraction or repulsion, to some degree.

In online classes with no face-to-face contact, this problem is reduced, but it comes through to some extent in the student's written postings.

If you or I allow these instinctive clues to corrupt objective measures, we will penalize the brilliant (but shy and sloppy) in favor of the less smart (but outgoing and sharp).

We may also favor those who are "more like us". In the past that has led to discrimination against females and racial or ethnic minorities (including Jews who tended to be disruptive and talked too fast and walked funny).

I do agree with you that long-form papers are a better evaluation tool than multiple-choice type tests. That is why my exams combine multiple choice with written paragraphs and the Research Paper commands 40% of the grade.

On the other hand, I have found that when students know I am tracking them weekly on attendance/participation they are more likely to put extra effort into the required readings and engage in more substantive cross-discussion in the conferences. I think that extra effort makes it more likely they will learn and remember the material and use it in their professional lives. (Most of my students are currently employed in IT-related jobs.)

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

As usual, I think Ira and I have no basic disagreement. How we evaluate students depends on the type of course, the level and topic of instruction, the medium, and so forth.

I emphatically agree that teachers should make a great effort to evaluate students objectively. In fact, if you don’t also strive for objectivity in your subject matter, you’re not a teacher, you’re a preacher.

Actually achieving pure objectivity is impossible because of our instinctive or unconscious biases. For example, I think fears like xenophobia and homophobia have a genetic basis that we can overcome only by other instincts, like fairness, and by experience.

Teaching a scientific theory that conflicts with a student’s religious belief is a problem. I have had only two fundamentalist students in my class where I discuss evolution. One was a seminary student and he understood my argument that intelligent design was not at present a science because there was no empirical way to disprove it. The other student dropped the class because my views were too stressful for him.

I think intelligent design should be discussed in elementary evolution classes, but I am strongly against mandating it, as many states are trying to do. The real problem are the stealth fundamentalist teachers. On what basis can we exclude them from teaching?

Ira Glickstein said...

I agree with Howard that intelligent design (ID) should be discussed in science classes, particularly the ID claims regarding "irreducible complexity" (IC). IC maintains even the simplest bacterium is so complex it could not have come into existence by random processes and therefore demands a Designer/Creator (i.e., God).

In science class I would discuss ID/IC and observe that God is more complex than a bacterium and thus, by ID/IC reasoning, God must have been Designed/Created by a Meta-God and so on up an infinite chain. Religious believers will counter that God is Timeless and has Always Existed - which scientists will say is a cop-out. I would note further that an intelligent ID proponent will counter that the Laws of Nature, which scientists say are also Universal and Timeless, is a similar cop-out, though it saves one step.

Having mentioned and discussed ID/IC, the science of evolution class should move on to the generally accepted theory of the origin of life (Autocatalytic Cycles, RNA World, DNA World, neo-Darwinian Evolution, ...). I do not think ID poses any real threat to the theory of evolution. If anything, the objections bolster it.

An analogous situation obtains with Einstein's objections to Heisenberg Uncertainty and the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM). Despite the weirdness that repelled Einstein, QM has so far withstood Einsteinian challenges. QM proponents say these challenges have forced QM proponents to bolster their theory, thus improving it.

So, I think science classes should certainly mention Einsteinian objections and then move on to the generally accepted standard QM stuff.

********************************

Fortunately, in my current System Engineering classes the conroversies are less ground-shaking. I sometimes act as a "devil's advocate" to get controversy going because I think fact-based dialog helps advance the learning process.

We have a semester-long case study of a secure entry system for a sensitive government facility. Our system uses RFID and biometrics. Students generally accept them as necessary in that context.

To get discussion going, I suggest that a "positive ID" society is coming for everyone. I cite the new passports that have RFID chips and biometrics and the "Real ID" act that mandates state-issued drivers licenses include RFID and biometrics. I quote with approval a 1999 statement:

"The chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems said Monday that consumer privacy issues are a 'red herring.' "You have zero privacy anyway,' Scott McNealy told a group of reporters and analysts Monday night at an event to launch his company's new Jini technology. 'Get over it.'"

Anyone with a credit card and a cell phone leaves many computer records of where they were and what they were doing. The only person with any "privacy" anymore is the theif using your stolen card or phone! That always sparks cross-discussion and I reward students on both sides if they have fact-based arguments. Several students have earned top grades for their advocacy of privacy in their Research Papers.

I also stir controversy with the suggestion employees should be greeted by a robot guard who shakes their hand (and does hand biometric readings of fingerprint and vein pattern) and looks in their eyes (and does iris scan and face geometry biometric readings). If they don't pass, the robot holds their hand and calls for a human guard. If they try to leave, the robot physically prevents it.

I include a question about the robot on an exam and I expect them to recognize that such a robot would raise legal and safety issues. I give equal credit whether students argue for or against the robot, so long as they mention both advantages and disadvantages.

Ira Glickstein

PS: There are far, far, fewer "stealth fundamentalist teachers" than there are totally L-Minded teachers who penalize any unorthodox views about "privacy" and "rights" and so on.

Ira Glickstein said...

The results of my "morals" test at http://www.yourmorals.org/ are a bit suprising.

FAIRNESS-RECIPROCITY=3.5, almost as high as average L-Minds (3.7) and quite a bit higher than average C-Minds (3.0). So, I'm an L-Mind, pretty much, when it comes to fairness-reciprocity.

INGROUP LOYALTY=3.8, somewhat higher than C-Minds (3.1) and a lot higher than L-Minds (2.1).

AUTHORITY-RESPECT=3.5, a bit higher than C-Minds (3.3) and a lot higher than L-Minds (2.1).

HARM-CARE=2.5, somewhat lower than C-Minds (3.0) and a lot lower than L-Minds (3.6).

The biggest surprise to me was
PURITY-SANCTITY=4.2, a lot higher than C-Minds (2.9) and infinitely more than L-Minds (1.3).

SUMMARY: L-Minds rate harm-care the highest and purity-sanctity lowest. I do the exact opposite!

If anyone else does the test I would appreciate if they would post it here as a Comment.

Ira Glickstein

Stu Denenberg said...

Ira posted:

"The results of my "morals" test at http://www.yourmorals.org/ are a bit suprising.

FAIRNESS-RECIPROCITY=3.5, almost as high as average L-Minds (3.7) and quite a bit higher than average C-Minds (3.0). So, I'm an L-Mind, pretty much, when it comes to fairness-reciprocity.

INGROUP LOYALTY=3.8, somewhat higher than C-Minds (3.1) and a lot higher than L-Minds (2.1).

AUTHORITY-RESPECT=3.5, a bit higher than C-Minds (3.3) and a lot higher than L-Minds (2.1).

HARM-CARE=2.5, somewhat lower than C-Minds (3.0) and a lot lower than L-Minds (3.6).

The biggest surprise to me was
PURITY-SANCTITY=4.2, a lot higher than C-Minds (2.9) and infinitely more than L-Minds (1.3)."

Stu replies:
I was 4.5 on Harm, much higher than your average bear, I mean Liberal.

On Fairness: 3.8, about the same as the average Liberal response.

On Loyalty: 2.5, about halfway between Liberal and Conservative but a tad closer to Liberal.

On Authority: 3.0, very close to the Conservative average and way above Liberal.

On Purity: 1.2, just below the Liberal average and way below the conservative. Maybe if I go back to Ivory soap....

So, overall the test tags me as Liberal but I still like to think of myself as a liberal enough Liberal to be open to intellectual diversity...

Howard said:

"I have found that conservative professors tend to evaluate students more heavily on quantitative “hard” evidence of past performance, like grades, while liberal professors are more willing to “take a chance” on their instinctive feelings."

I must be an exception to this rule as a Liberal with a high regard for Authority. In the classroom, I am very hardnosed about using lots of different assessment procedures which are measured by grades (0-99 (nobody's perfect)). I always thought it was to justify myself when a student questions a grade but maybe it's simply fear of confrontation --- I know that in 30 yrs I have never given a higher grade to a student who had a lower numerical average than another student --- maybe this is just Fairness rearing its pretty head. To make matters even more complicated, outside the classroom, I make many about (50%) of my decisions based on intuition; this means the other 50% are based on reason and empirical evidence --- how do I decide which method to use? I use my intuition.

PS: Nice link Howard, I really enjoyed it.

Take care all,

Stu

Steve Ruberg said...

I really liked the TED video and was particularly interested in Haidt's comment that moral agreement, or the formation of a team mentality, inhibits true understanding. And I also thought Haidt's statement that the 5 Moral Foundations are hardwired and the Seng T'San quote were of interest. Really good for an eighteen minute talk. It would be good to further explore the hardwiredness of morals and the implications of the Seng T'San quote.

The results of my Moral Foundations assessment:

Harm - 3.5, close to the L-mind
Fairness - 2.8, close to C-Mind
Loyalty - 2.8, C-Mind territory again
Authority - 2.7, in the middle, neither C or L
Purity - 4.0, beyond C-Mind

Can't deny the conservative leanings here ... and I thought I was a moderate. But hey - I voted for Obama. Possibly the results of being a political Independent (back to Seng T'San again? be neither "for" nor "against"). Like Ira, I'm surprised at my high Purity score. If evolution is at work in hardwiring this Purity score, does it come from the Irish side or German? :)

Really appreciated what Howard said, "I now find that judging a person’s potential by the standard quantitative measures is seldom as valid as an experienced instinct.

This relation between basic evolutionary instincts and experience is very complex. In some cases, I have been mistaken because people can really change ― young students especially. "

I find Howard's observations from experience of response to internal and external life changing events to be very hopeful.

Howard also said, "The real problem are the stealth fundamentalist teachers. On what basis can we exclude them from teaching? " Moral agreement inhibits understanding - didn't Haidt say something about the team mentality? The moral agreement of more liberal teachers has already made it very difficult to hear dissenting views on college campuses. By including them in teaching maybe we could all gain a better understanding of each other.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Steve Ruberg for posting your morals test results. I was pleased to see another person (almost) as "purity-sanctity" oriented as me (you got 4.0 to my 4.2). I thought you were more of a literal believer than I am (or is it your wife or your daughter?).

EVERYBODY: I hope others post their scores, and those of their spouses and children (or send them in an email to me at ira@techie.com). After a week or so, I may post a graphical representation of each of our scores for comparison.

Ira Glickstein

Steve Ruberg said...

Well ... I do consider myself a "literal believer". I would like to better understand your definition of the phrase before I remove the quotes!

What does my lower Purity score indicate to you about my beliefs?

Ira Glickstein said...

It is up to you, Steve, to define your own religious views. For me, a literal believer (no "scare" quotes as my philo prof would say) is one who believes the writings in his or her holy books are the absolute truth according to the plain meaning of the words and sentences. A non-literal believer would interpret the meaning in a figurative sense.

A simple example I like to use is Aesop's Fables. No one but a young child really believes the Ant and the Grasshopper actually conversed. The fable, nevertheless, conveys a great truth: In days of plenty, be sure to lay away resources for the days of necessity when resources will be scarce. One might argue that the truth content of these fables is higher, pound for pound, than that of, oh say, the New York Times!

I view the holy books of Judaism (and all other mainline religions of the world) as containing great time-tested truths. That they have survived over 1000 years and been reproduced and are now accepted by millions of people, is testament to that. However, I do not, for example, believe that an external Creator made the Heavens and the Earth around 6000 years ago as well as all biological life. Even if we define a God's Day as millions or billions of human years, I still do not accept the idea of a Creator external from His Creation.

I accept the idea that the origin of life on Earth is the result of processes that, at least at first, were random. The best theory is that autocatalytic cycles, over a period of a billion years, generated primitive RNA which evolved into DNA and blue-green algae. It took some two billion more years for multi-cell life to evolve and another one or two billion for humans.

I do not believe the Hebrew Bible, or any individual translation of the Bible (such as the Septuagint or the King James Version) were specially protected by God in a literal sense.

A Jewish, or Christian, literal believer, I expect, would believe not only that the Bible contains great truths, but also that it can be believed as a plain fact history of the events it describes with no need for figurative interpretation.

Ira Glickstein