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Is morality a gadget? Nature, nurture and culture in moral development

Heyes, Cecilia (2019) Is morality a gadget? Nature, nurture and culture in moral development. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Research on ‘moral learning’ examines the roles of domain-general processes, such as Bayesian inference and reinforcement learning, in the development of moral beliefs and values. Alert to the power of these processes and equipped with both the analytic resources of philosophy and the empirical methods of psychology, ‘moral learners’ are ideally placed to discover the contributions of nature, nurture and culture to moral development. However, I argue that to achieve these objectives research on moral learning needs to 1) overcome nativist bias, and 2) distinguish two kinds of social learning: learning from and learning about. An agent learns from others when there is transfer of competence - what the learner learns is similar to, and causally dependent on, what the model knows. When an agent learns about the social world there is no transfer of competence - observable features of other agents are just the content of what-is-learned. Learning from does not require explicit instruction. A novice can learn from an expert who is ‘leaking’ her morality in the form of emotionally charged behaviour or involuntary use of vocabulary. To the extent that moral development depends on learning from other agents, there is the potential for cultural selection of moral beliefs and values.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Heyes, Ceciliacecilia.heyes@all-souls.ox.ac.uk0000-0001-9119-9913
Keywords: Cultural evolution; social learning; moral psychology; moral learning; moral development; nativism.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Comparative Psychology and Ethology
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Developmental Psychology
General Issues > Evidence
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Learning and Memory
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Prof Cecilia Heyes
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2019 11:57
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2019 11:57
Item ID: 16263
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Comparative Psychology and Ethology
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Developmental Psychology
General Issues > Evidence
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Learning and Memory
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 26 July 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16263

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