Modular Morals: The Genetic Architecture of Morality as Cooperation
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Description: Is morality the product of multiple domain-specific psychological mechanisms or one domain-general mechanism? Recent research suggests that morality consists of a range of solutions to the problems of cooperation that are recurrent in human social life. According to the theory of Morality as Cooperation (MAC), this involves at least seven types of cooperation, giving rise to seven types of morality: Family, Group, Reciprocity, Heroism, Deference, Fairness and Property Rights. However, how genes and environments influence these morals is unclear. Here we use multivariate analysis of a large twin sample (N = 1,066 pairs) to determine the genetic and environmental structure of moral values as measured by the Morality as Cooperation Questionnaire, contrasting models in which these morals are the product of either 1) multiple domain-specific psychological mechanisms versus 2) a single domain-general mechanism implementing all forms of cooperation. The results supported multiple heritable moral mechanisms, and models with fewer than the predicted seven factors fit poorly. A domain-general mechanism was also needed, though this showed non-significant heritability and may reflect response bias. We discuss the current study's limitations and suggest future research on the nature, structure, and content of morality.
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