Moral Universals: A machine-reading analysis of 256 societies
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Description: What is the cross-cultural prevalence of the seven moral values posited by the theory of “Morality-as-Cooperation”? Previous research, using hand-coding of ethnographic accounts of ethics from 60 societies, found examples of most of the seven morals in most societies, and observed these morals with equal frequency across cultural regions. Here we extend this analysis, by developing a new Morality-as-Cooperation Dictionary (MAC-D), and using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) to machine-code ethnographic accounts of ethics from an additional 196 societies (the entire HRAF corpus). Again, we find evidence of most of the seven morals in most societies, across all cultural regions. The new method allows us to detect minor variations in morals across region and subsistence strategy. And we successfully validate the machine-coding against the previous hand-coding. These findings lend further support to the theory of ‘morality-as-cooperation’. And MAC-D emerges as the most comprehensive and well-validated tool for machine-reading moral corpora. We discuss the limitations of the current study, as well as prospects for future research.