McManus, Ryan M. “From Moral Psychology to Methods Morale”, Boston College, 2023. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:109638.
When (moral) psychologists make a claim (e.g., “Participants judged X as morally worse than Y”), how many participants are represented? Such claims are often based exclusively on group-level analyses; here, psychologists often fail to report, or perhaps even investigate, how many participants judged X as morally worse than Y. More troubling, group-level analyses do not necessarily generalize to the person-level. This dissertation first investigates a moral cognition hypothesis about the relation between perceptions of relationship obligations and moral evaluations of helping behavior. It is found that people, on average, judge agents who help strangers as more morally good than agents who help family members, but people also judge agents who help strangers instead of family members as less morally good than agents who help family members instead of strangers. Second, methodological issues with these studies are assessed, fixed, and thus the original psychological effect is retested with better experimental designs, measures, and analyses. Third, it is discovered that the moral cognition hypothesis consistently describes the psychology of only a minority of participants. Moreover, it is discovered that most psychologists misinterpret typical group-level analyses as revealing how prevalent a psychological phenomenon is. Finally, a set of simple and flexible methodological and statistical options are offered to better align typical psychological hypotheses with appropriate analyses, enabling researchers to confront this “group-to-person generalizability” problem in their own work.