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Moral Psychology

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

In everyday life, whether they may be trivial or significant, people often encounter situations that fall under the purview of morality. Sometimes people are tempted to commit a norm violation, such as telling a lie to obtain immediate rewards or avoid undesirable outcomes. Other times, people become a victim of or witness someone else's bad behaviors. Under such circumstances, the moral capacity enables people to make judgments of what is right or wrong and choose appropriate actions accordingly. But what are psychological mechanisms underlying moral judgments? For example, are moral judgments led by emotional factors, such as guilt and anger, or cognitive factors, such as assessments of intentionality and responsibility?
In this course, we will discuss the existing social psychological research on moral judgments and implement various theories and experimental findings in understanding (im)moral behaviors we experience in life.

In this course, I will introduce classic moral dilemmas and some variations of them, interactive behavioral economics games, the role of emotion and cognition in moral judgments, the relationship between moral judgments and empathy and understanding of other people's mental states, recent global issues relevant to morality, moral issues that people frequently deal with in everyday life, etc.
Typically, social psychologists examine the underlying psychological processes of moral judgments by conducting experiments. I will provide an overview of how psychological experiments are carried out and prepare an online experiment that would allow students to have a direct experience of being a social psychologist. They will collect the data, run a simple analysis in Excel, and write a report.
For each class, students will read a journal article, write a short reaction paper, and discuss the article in class. I plan to ask them to keep a journal, which will be focused on describing their daily observations and analyses of moral behaviors around them. Each student will have a chance to give a presentation in class at least once. Also, I will prepare some interactive games, such as Prisoner's Dilemma Game, have the students play the games, and lead discussions about their interpretations of the games.
It would be helpful if the students have access to computers. Besides computers, this course will not require any unique or unusual elements.
I study moral psychology and mental state inferences, which are highly relevant to the topic of the course.
After taking this course, the students will be familiarized with basic psychological research approach and theories of moral judgments in the social psychological literature.

First, the students will be able to grasp how social psychologists conduct research (e.g., developing research ideas, conducting experiments, analyzing data, and interpreting the data). This will be beneficial to students who are interested in psychology, cognitive science, and behavioral economics, all of which heavily rely on experiments in conducting research.
Second, the students will understand major theories of moral judgments in social psychology.
Third, the students will be able to hone their analytic thinking skills by applying the knowledge they learned in class to their daily lives and better comprehend (im)moral behaviors of themselves and other people.

There is no prerequisite for this course.

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