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Uncommon Knowledge

Think yourself full

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

Could the right go green?

People tend to think of morality along one dimension: good versus bad. But recent scholarship by Jonathan Haidt and others has identified that there can be multiple moral values commanding our attention—namely “harm/care,” “fairness/reciprocity,” “in-group/loyalty,” “authority/respect,” and “purity/sanctity”—and has shown that liberals are more focused on harm/care while conservatives are more focused on the others. A new study applies this moral framework to environmental politics and reveals that conservatives aren’t necessarily more opposed to environmental action; it depends how that action is framed. While the study confirmed that liberals see the environment as more of a moral issue and that the predominant framing of pro-environment messages in the media is based on harm/care rhetoric, the study also found that exposing conservatives to a purity/sanctity framing—focusing on pollution and contamination—caused them to feel more disgust and adopt more pro-environment attitudes, including support for pro-environment legislation and belief in global warming.

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