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The Ethical Perspective: An Identity Theory of the Psychological Influences on Moral Choice

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The 2008 Presidential Address presents the theory of ethical perspective, an identity theory of moral psychology designed to detect the psychological influences on moral choice. Part 1 treats findings on altruism and genocide as an analytical lens through which we can gain insight into political and moral behavior. Part 2 describes moral psychology as a field, presenting a new and broader conceptualization for the discipline. Part 3 outlines an identity theory of moral choice that focuses on the critical role of the ethical perspective, to suggest how an empirically based theory of moral choice looks in practice. Part 4 concentrates on the basic assumptions underlying the theory of ethical perspective. It presents empirical evidence that supports this theoretical framework, from fields as diverse as neuroscience and primatology to child development and linguistics, thus demonstrating political psychology's important links to other disciplines. In addition to presenting a new theory of moral psychology, designed to fill an important gap in the literature on ethics and moral choice, the Address treats studies of altruism and genocide as an illustration of research that reveals broader insight into the nature of political psychology as a discipline.
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Keywords: Ethical perspective; Identity; Moral choice; Moral psychology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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