Friday, March 29, 2019

Authors propose a new cooperation-based theory of morality; use game theory to identify seven types of cooperation, and seven types of morality; develop and validate a new self-report measure of moral values: Morality-as-cooperation

Mapping morality with a compass: Testing the theory of ‘morality-as-cooperation’ with a new questionnaire. Oliver Scott Curry, Matthew Jones Chesters, Caspar J.Van Lissa. Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 78, February 2019, Pages 106-124.

•    Proposes a new cooperation-based theory of morality.
•    Uses game theory to identify seven types of cooperation, and seven types of morality.
•    Develops and validates a new self-report measure of moral values.

Abstract: Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) is the theory that morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. MAC uses game theory to identify distinct types of cooperation, and predicts that each will be considered morally relevant, and each will give rise to a distinct moral domain. Here we test MAC's predictions by developing a new self-report measure of morality, the Morality-as-Cooperation Questionnaire (MAC-Q), and comparing its psychometric properties to those of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ). Over four studies, the results support the MAC-Q's seven-factor model of morality, but not the MFQ's five-factor model. Thus MAC emerges as the best available compass with which to explore the moral landscape.

Check also this meta-analysis of effects of helping on the happiness of the helper: The overall effect of kindness on well-being is small-to-medium:
Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Oliver Scott Curry et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,

1. Introduction

What is morality? What explains its content and structure? And how is it best measured? In recent years, the study of morality has become the focus of a thriving interdisciplinary endeavour, encompassing research not only in psychology, but also in evolutionary theory, genetics, biology, animal behaviour, anthropology, neuroscience and economics (Haidt, 2007, Shackelford and Hansen, 2016, Sinnott-Armstrong, 2007). A common view in this body of work is that the function of morality is to promote cooperation (Curry, 2016, Greene, 2015:40; Haidt & Kesebir, 2010:800; Rai & Fiske, 2011:59; Sterelny & Fraser, 2016:1; Tomasello & Vaish, 2013:231).1
However, previous cooperative accounts of morality have not made full use of the mathematical analysis of cooperation – the theory of nonzerosum games – to provide a systematic taxonomy of cooperation. They have instead tended to focus on a relatively narrow range of cooperative behaviours (typically kin altruism and reciprocal altruism), and omitted others (for example, coordination and conflict resolution) (Table 4 in Curry, 2016). Thus, previous accounts have attempted to explain morality from an unnecessarily restricted base, and missed the opportunity to furnish a broader, more general theory of morality.
The present paper has two goals. First, we use nonzerosum game theory to provide the rigorous, systematic foundation that the cooperative approach to morality has previously lacked. We show how this rich, principled explanatory framework – which we call ‘Morality-as-Cooperation’ (MAC; Curry, 2016, Curry et al., 2019) – incorporates more types of cooperation, and thus explains more types of morality, than previous approaches. The current version of the theory incorporates seven well-established types of cooperation: (1) the allocation of resources to kin (Hamilton, 1963); (2) coordination to mutual advantage (Lewis, 1969); (3) social exchange (Trivers, 1971); and conflict resolution through contests featuring displays of (4) hawkish and (5) dove-ish traits (Maynard Smith & Price, 1973); (6) division (Skyrms, 1996); and (7) possession (Gintis, 2007).
Second, we test MAC’s prediction that each of these types of cooperation will be considered morally relevant, and each will give rise to a distinct moral domain, by developing a new self-report measure of moral values – with facets dedicated to (1) family values, (2) group loyalty, (3) reciprocity, (4) bravery, (5) respect, (6) fairness and (7) property rights – and examine its psychometric properties.

2. How cooperation explains morality

The theory of Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life (Curry, 2016). Below we review the general argument, before looking at how specific types of cooperation explain corresponding types of morality.
Life begins when molecules start making copies of themselves. These ‘replicators’ are ‘selfish’ in the technical sense that they promote their own replication (Dawkins, 1976/2006). They can promote their replication at the expense of other replicators. These competitive interactions have a winner and a loser; one’s gain is another’s loss; they are zerosum games (Maynard Smith, 1982, Von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944). But replicators can also replicate in concert with other replicators (Dawkins, 1998). These cooperative interactions can have two winners; they are win-win situations; they are nonzerosum games. Natural selection can favour genes for cooperation – that is, genes for evolutionarily-stable phenotypic strategies designed to achieve superior equilibria in nonzerosum interactions – and has done throughout the history of life. Natural selection for genes that employ cooperative strategies has driven several ‘major transitions’ in the evolution of life on Earth, including the formation of cells, chromosomes and multicellular organisms (Maynard Smith & Szathmáry, 1995). Natural selection has also favoured genes for cooperation between individuals, in a wide variety of species (Dugatkin, 1997), including humans. Humans descend from a long line of social primates; they have spent 50 million years living in social groups (Shultz, Opie, & Atkinson, 2011), and two million years making a living as intensely collaborative hunter-gatherers (Tooby & DeVore, 1987). This has equipped humans with a range of biological – including psychological – adaptations for cooperation. These adaptations can be seen as natural selection’s ‘attempts’ to solve the problems of cooperation. More recently, improvisational intelligence and cultural transmission (Boyd et al., 2011, Pinker, 2010) have made it possible for humans to attempt to improve upon natural selection’s solutions by inventing evolutionarily-novel solutions – ‘tools and rules’ – for further bolstering cooperation (Binmore, 1994a, Binmore, 1994b, Hammerstein, 2003, Nagel, 1991, Popper, 1945). Together, these biological and cultural mechanisms provide the motivation for social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour; and they provide the criteria by which individuals evaluate the behaviour of others. According to MAC, it is precisely these solutions to problems of cooperation – this collection of instincts, intuitions, inventions and institutions – that constitute human morality (Curry, 2005, Davies et al., 2014).2
Which problems of cooperation do humans face? And how are they solved? Evolutionary biology and game theory tell us that there is not just one problem of cooperation but many, with many different functionally, and perhaps phenotypically, distinct solutions (Lehmann and Keller, 2006, Nunn and Lewis, 2001, Robinson and Goforth, 2005, Sachs et al., 2004). Our review of this literature suggests that there are (at least) seven well-established types of cooperation: (1) the allocation of resources to kin; (2) coordination to mutual advantage; (3) social exchange; and conflict resolution through contests featuring (4) hawkish displays of dominance and (5) dove-ish displays of submission; (6) division of disputed resources; and (7) recognition of possession. We briefly review each of these below, and we consider how each type of cooperation provides an explanation for a corresponding type of morality (Table 1).
Table 1. Overview of morality-as-cooperation.

1FamilyKin selectionKin AltruismDuty of care, special obligations to kinIncest, neglectBlood is thicker than water
2GroupCoordinationMutualismLoyalty, unity, solidarity, conformityBetrayal, treasonUnited we stand, divided we fall
3ReciprocitySocial DilemmaReciprocal AltruismReciprocity, trustworthiness, forgivenessCheating, ingratitudeOne good turn deserves another
4HeroismConflict Resolution (Contest)Hawkish DisplaysBravery, fortitude, largesseCowardice, miserlinessWith great power comes great responsibility
5DeferenceConflict Resolution (Contest)Dove-ish DisplaysRespect, obedience, humilityDisrespect, hubrisBlessed are the meek
6FairnessConflict Resolution (Bargaining)DivisionFairness, impartiality, equalityUnfairness, favouritismLet’s meet in the middle
7PropertyConflict Resolution (Possession)OwnershipRespect for property, property rightsTheft, trespassPossession in nine-tenths of the law

2.1. Allocation of resources to kin (Family Values)

Genes that benefit replicas of themselves that reside in other individuals – that is, genetic relatives – will be favoured by natural selection if the cost of helping is outweighed by the benefit to the recipient gene(s) (Dawkins, 1979, Hamilton, 1963). So, evolutionary theory leads us to expect that under some conditions organisms will possess adaptations for detecting and delivering benefits (or avoiding doing harm) to kin. This theory of kin selection explains many instances of altruism, in many species (Gardner & West, 2014), including humans (Kurland and Gaulin, 2005, Lieberman et al., 2007). MAC predicts that because strategies for kin altruism realise a mutual benefit, they will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why caring for offspring (Edel & Edel, 1959/1968; an ‘ethic of care’; Gilligan, 1982), helping family members (Fukuyama, 1996, Wong, 1984, and avoiding inbreeding (Lieberman et al., 2003, Westermarck, 1994) have been widely regarded as important components of morality.

2.2. Coordination to mutual advantage (Group Loyalty)

In game theory, situations in which individuals are uncertain about how to behave in order to bring about a mutual benefit are modelled as coordination problems (Lewis, 1969). Humans and other animals use a variety of strategies – such as focal points, traditions, leadership, signalling, badges of membership, and ‘theory of mind’ – to solve these problems (Alvard, 2001, Boos et al., 2011, Curry and Jones Chesters, 2012, McElreath et al., 2003), and form stable coalitions and alliances (Balliet et al., 2014, Bissonnette et al., 2015, Harcourt and de Waal, 1992). MAC predicts that because solutions to coordination problems realise mutual benefits, they will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why participating in collaborative endeavours (Royce, 1908), favouring your own group (Bernhard et al., 2006, Gert, 2013), and adopting local conventions (Gibbard, 1990a, Gibbard, 1990b) have been widely regarded as important components of morality.

2.3. Social exchange (Reciprocity)

In game theory, social dilemmas – prisoners dilemmas, public goods games, tragedies of the commons – arise when the fruits of cooperation are vulnerable to ‘free riders’, who accept the benefit of cooperation, without paying the cost (Ostrom & Walker, 2002). This problem can be overcome by a strategy of ‘conditional cooperation’ or ‘reciprocal altruism’, such as tit-for-tat (Axelrod, 1984, Trivers, 1971). Evidence for conditional cooperation has been found in numerous animal species (Carter, 2014), including humans (Cosmides and Tooby, 2005, Henrich et al., 2005, Jaeggi and Gurven, 2013). MAC predicts that because solutions to social dilemmas realise mutual benefits, they will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why reciprocity in general (Chilton and Neusner, 2009, Confucius, 1994), as well as its various subcomponents – trust (Baier, 1995), patience (Curry, Price, & Price, 2008), gratitude (Emmons, 2004), guilt (Gibbard, 1990b), apology (Ohtsubo & Watanabe, 2009), and forgiveness (Downie, 1965, Godfray, 1992, Richards, 1988) – have been widely regarded as important components of morality.

2.4. Contests between Hawks (Heroism) & 2.5 Doves (Deference)

Conflict over resources – food, territory, and mates (Huntingford & Turner, 1987) – presents organisms with an opportunity to cooperate by competing in less mutually-destructive ways (Maynard Smith & Price, 1973). There are three ways of achieving this: contests (featuring the display of hawkish and dove-ish traits), division, and possession.
Game theory has shown that conflicts can be settled through ‘contests’, in which individuals display reliable indicators of their ‘fighting ability’, and the weaker ‘contestant’ defers to the stronger (Gintis et al., 2001, Maynard Smith and Price, 1973). Such contests are widespread in nature (Hardy and Briffa, 2013, Riechert, 1998), and often form the basis of dominance hierarchies where resources are allocated by ‘rank’ (Preuschoft & van Schaik, 2000). Humans have a similar repertoire of status-related behaviours (Fiddick et al., 2013, Mazur, 2005, Sell et al., 2009), and culturally elaborated hierarchies (Boone, 1992, Rubin, 2000). MAC predicts that because hawkish displays of dominance, and dove-ish displays of submission, together realise mutual benefits, they will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why these two apparently contradictory sets of traits (Berlin, 1997) – the ‘heroic virtues’ of fortitude, bravery, skill, and wit, and the ‘monkish virtues’ of humility, deference, obedience, and respect – have been widely regarded as important components of morality (Curry, 2007, MacIntyre, 1981a, MacIntyre, 1981b).

2.6. Division (Fairness)

When the contested resource is divisible, game theory models the situation as a ‘bargaining problem’ (Nash, 1950). Here, one solution is to divide the resource in proportion to the relative (bargaining) power of the protagonists (Skyrms, 1996). In the case of equally powerful individuals, this results in equal shares (Maynard Smith, 1982). Evidence for a ‘sense of fairness’ comes from non-human primates’ adverse reactions to unequal treatment in economic games (Brosnan, 2013, Brosnan and de Waal, 2014). With regard to humans, rules such as “I cut, you choose”, “meet in the middle”, “split the difference”, and “take turns”, are ancient and widespread means of resolving disputes (Brams & Taylor, 1996). And ‘equal shares’ is a spontaneous and cross-culturally prevalent decision rule in economic games (Henrich et al., 2005) and similar situations (Messick, 1993). MAC predicts that because dividing resources avoids a costly fight, and therefore realises a mutual benefit, it will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why fairness (Rawls, 1958) and willingness to compromise (Pennock & Chapman, 1979) have been widely regarded as important components of morality.

2.7. Possession (Property Rights)

Finally, game theory shows that conflicts over resources can be resolved by deference to prior possession (Gintis, 2007, Hare et al., 2016, Maynard Smith, 1982). The recognition of prior possession is widespread in nature (Sherratt and Mesterton-Gibbons, 2015, Strassmann and Queller, 2014). Humans also defer to prior possession in vignette studies (DeScioli and Karpoff, 2015, Friedman and Neary, 2008), experimental games (the ‘endowment effect’; Kahneman & Tversky, 1979), the law (Rose, 1985), and international relations (Johnson & Toft, 2014). Private property, in some form or other, appears to be a cross-cultural universal (Herskovits, 1952). MAC predicts that because deferring to prior possession avoids a costly fight, and therefore realises a mutual benefit, it will be regarded as morally good. This theory can explain why the right to own property and the prohibition of theft (Becker, 1977, Locke, 2000, Pennock and Chapman, 1980) have been widely regarded as an important components of morality.

3. Summary and predictions

Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) is the theory that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. MAC draws upon the mathematics of cooperation to identify and distinguish between different types of cooperation, and thereby explain different facets of morality. The present review has identified seven types of cooperation, and hence seven candidate moral domains: obligations to family, group loyalty, reciprocity, bravery, respect, fairness, and property rights. Thus MAC can explain why specific forms of cooperative behaviour – helping kin, helping one’s group, reciprocating costs and benefits, displaying ‘hawkish’ and dove-ish traits, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession – are regarded as morally good, and why the corresponding forms of uncooperative behaviour – neglecting kin, betraying one’s group, free-riding, cowardice, disrespect, unfairness and theft – are regarded as morally bad.
Starting from these first principles, MAC makes the following predictions about morality. First, with regard to content, MAC predicts that people will regard each type of cooperation as morally relevant; that is, as falling within the moral domain. Second, with regard to structure, MAC predicts that because the incidence and value of these different types of cooperation vary independently in social life (and are perhaps subserved by different psychological mechanisms) the strength of endorsement of each of the corresponding types of morality will vary independently too. In other words, each of these seven types of cooperation will give rise to a distinct moral domain. Accordingly, the theory predicts that moral values will exhibit a multifactorial structure, varying on these seven dimensions. Moreover, as a corollary of this prediction regarding structure, MAC predicts that behaviour not tied to a specific type of cooperation will not constitute a distinct moral domain. These predictions about the content and structure of morality distinguish MAC from previous evolutionary and cooperative theories of morality.

3.0.1. Moral Foundations Theory

The most widely-used, and thus far most extensive, attempt to map the moral domain is Moral Foundations Theory (MFT; Haidt & Graham, 2007) operationalised in the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ; Graham et al., 2011). Like MAC, MFT takes a cooperative approach to morality, and maintains that there are many moral domains. But, unlike MAC, MFT does not derive its domains from any underlying theory of cooperation (Haidt & Joseph, 2011), and proposes only five: Care, Fairness, Ingroup, Authority and Purity.3 Like MAC, MFT includes domains dedicated to group loyalty (Ingroup), deference (Authority) and fairness (Fairness). But unlike MAC, MFT does not include domains dedicated to family, reciprocity, heroism, or property. MFT has no foundation dedicated to kin altruism; the MFQ does have two items pertaining to kin, but they appear under Fairness and Ingroup. Nor has MFT any foundation dedicated to reciprocal altruism: MFT places reciprocity (a solution to iterated prisoners’ dilemmas) and fairness (a solution to bargaining problems) under the same heading, and the MFQ has no items pertaining to reciprocity. MFT has no foundations, and the MFQ has no items, dedicated to hawkish displays of dominance, such as bravery. And the only mention of property occurs in an item about inheritance under the foundation of Fairness.
MFT also includes domains – Care and Purity – that are not related to a specific type of cooperation, and that MAC therefore predicts will not constitute coherent domains.
MAC predicts that moral psychology will be sensitive to the benefits (care, altruism) and costs (harms) of social interaction — for what is cooperation but a particular configuration of benefits and costs? But, as we have seen, MAC suggests that there are different types of benefits and costs — with different causes and consequences. For example, some ‘harms’, such as murder, are considered morally bad because they violate one or more cooperative principles (they break implicit social contracts against the use of force, and constitute an escalation of conflict, as opposed to its peaceful resolution). Other ‘harms’, such as punishment or self-defence, are considered morally good because they promote cooperation. This perspective suggests that it is a mistake to attempt to analyse benefits and costs in isolation, outside of their cooperative context, by placing them in a separate, generic domain dedicated to care or harm.
‘Purity’, meanwhile, has been described as the avoidance of “people with diseases, parasites [and] waste products” (Haidt & Joseph, 2004). It has no explicated connection to cooperation; on the contrary, it is regarded as an “odd corner” of morality precisely because it is not “concerned with how we treat other people” (Haidt & Joseph, 2004). By contrast, MAC suggests that the problem of avoiding pathogens (and other disgust-eliciting stimuli) is not a moral problem per se; instead, ‘pure’ or ‘impure’ behaviour is moralised only when it provides benefits, or imposes costs on, others – for example, by putting their health at risk. So, avoiding rotten fruit on a tree is not a moral issue, but coughing in public without covering your mouth is. And, because there are many different ways in which disgusting behaviour might influence others – the problem of avoiding incest is not the same as the problem of avoiding people with poor personal hygiene – MAC suggests that it is a mistake to single out ‘purity’ as a separate, generic domain.

3.0.2. Relational Models Theory

Similarly, like MAC, Fiske’s Relational Models Theory (RMT) takes a cooperative approach to morality, and maintains that there are many moral domains. But, unlike MAC, RMT does not derive its domains from any underlying theory of cooperation, and proposes only four: Unity, Hierarchy, Equality and Proportionality (Fiske and Rai, 2014, Rai and Fiske, 2011).4 Unlike MAC, RMT’s domain of Unity does not distinguish between family and group; Hierarchy does not distinguish between hawkish heroism and dove-ish deference; and Equality and Proportionality do not distinguish between reciprocity and fairness. Interestingly, like MAC, and unlike MFT, RMT argues that there are no distinct domains dedicated to ‘harm' or ‘purity’.5

3.0.3. Theory of Dyadic Morality

Unlike MAC (and MFT and RMT), Gray’s Theory of Dyadic Morality (TDM) (Schein & Gray, 2018) does not take a cooperative approach to morality, but instead argues that the function of moral rules is to minimise harm to others (and is therefore a form of utilitarianism). TDM recognises that there may be different “genres” of harm that correspond to MFT’s domains, but argues that all moral violations are processed by general-purpose psychological mechanisms, as opposed to distinct special-purpose mechanisms. Like MAC, and RMT, TDM does not accept MFT’s claim that ‘purity’ is a distinct domain of morality – indeed, TDM has marshalled considerable evidence to suggest that ‘impure’ or disgusting acts are merely a particular form of harmful behaviour (Gray, Schein, & Ward, 2014).

3.0.4. Side-Taking Theory of Morality

Finally, like MAC, DeScioli and Kurzban’s ‘side-taking’ theory of morality (STTM) agrees that cooperation explains moral behaviour: “evolutionary theories of morality [that] focus on understanding cooperation…do an excellent job of explaining why humans…care for offspring, cooperate in groups, trade favors, communicate honestly, and respect property” (DeScioli, 2016: 23). However, whereas MAC would argue that these cooperative theories also explain why people make and express moral judgements – for example, to decide with whom to cooperate in future (Krasnow, Delton, Cosmides, & Tooby, 2016), to warn friends and family of uncooperative individuals, to enhance one’s reputation as trustworthy or heroic (Barclay, 2016), or to recruit allies to prosecute an offender (Petersen, 2013) – STTM argues instead that the sole function of moral judgements is to provide salient focal points around which people coordinate when taking sides in interpersonal conflicts (DeScioli and Kurzban, 2009, DeScioli and Kurzban, 2013). STTM maintains that a wide range of content, including cooperative rules, can fulfil this function.
Thus MAC makes predictions about the content and structure of morality that are more extensive and detailed than those of previous theories. For the remainder of this paper we will focus on testing MAC’s predictions against those of the most well-developed theory – MFT – and return to the implications of our findings for the other theories in the general discussion.
Previous empirical research provides some support for MAC’s predictions about the content and structure of morality.

3.1. The content of morality

With regard to content, an analysis of the historical ethnographic records of 60 societies found that the moral valence of these seven cooperative behaviours was uniformly positive, and that there is evidence for the majority of these cooperative moral values in the majority of cultures, in all regions of the world (Curry et al., 2019). Research on more contemporary populations paints a similar picture. First, a survey of family values involving student samples from 30 countries (Byrne and van de Vijver, 2014, Georgas et al., 2006) and responses to items in the World Values Survey, conducted in over 65 societies (Inglehart & Baker, 2000), indicate that ‘helping kin’ is widely considered to be morally good. Second, responses from internet samples to the Ingroup items in the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (Graham et al., 2011), and responses from student samples in 20 countries to items from the Schwartz Basic Values Survey (Schwartz, 1992) both indicate that ‘helping your group’ is widely considered to be morally good. Third, endorsement of the norms of positive and negative reciprocity in student samples (Eisenberger, Lynch, Aselage, & Rohdieck, 2004), in Britain and Italy (Perugini, Gallucci, Presaghi, & Ercolani, 2003), and responses to some items in the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths in 54 countries (Park et al., 2006, Peterson and Seligman, 2004) and Schwartz’s Values Scale (Schwartz, 1992) indicate that ‘reciprocity’ is widely considered to be morally good. Fourth, investigations into the concept of honour, among students in the US and Turkey (Cross et al., 2014) indicate that various hawkish traits such as bravery are considered to be morally good. Fifth, responses to Authority items in the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (Graham et al., 2011), and to items from the Schwartz Basic Values Survey (Schwartz, 1992) indicate that ‘respecting superiors’ is widely considered to be morally good. Sixth, responses to items in the Merit Principle Scale in student samples (Davey, Bobocel, Son Hing, & Zanna, 1999) indicate that ‘dividing disputed resources’ is considered to be morally good. And seventh, responses to items in the World Values Survey (reported in Weeden & Kurzban, 2013) indicate that ‘respecting property’ is widely considered to be morally good.
However, previous research has not provided a full test of MAC’s predictions about the content of morality; no previous study has investigated the moral relevance of all seven forms of cooperative behaviour in a single, contemporary, representative sample. Instead, the studies reviewed above have measured different aspects of morality, in different ways; the scales they employ typically measure something other than the moral relevance (or valence) of cooperation (for example, they ask whether a person or a society possesses a particular trait, rather than whether the trait is moral); and the samples they use are typically composed only of students.

3.2. The structure of morality

With regard to structure, no previous research has investigated MAC’s prediction that these seven different types of cooperation will give rise to distinct domains of morality. This is because no previous attempts to map the moral domain – even those that have argued that the function of morality is to promote cooperation – have been guided by the mathematics of cooperation reviewed above, and hence none contain all of the domains predicted by MAC (Curry, 2016).
Nevertheless, despite its limitations, it is possible to ask whether previous work using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) supports MAC’s predictions where the two theories overlap. Here the evidence is mixed. Factor analysis has provided only limited support for MFT’s five-factor model. The original exploratory factor analysis of data collected using the MFQ suggested a two-factor model (Table 2 in Graham et al., 2011). Confirmatory factor analysis of this data suggested that MFT’s five-factor model provided a better fit; but the size of the improvement was marginal, and more importantly, none of the resulting five-factor models exhibited a conventionally ‘acceptable’ model fit (CFIs ≤ 0.88; Table 10; Graham et al., 2011). Subsequent independent replications in Italy (CFI = 0.88; Bobbio, Nencini, & Sarrica, 2011), New Zealand (CFI = 0.83; Davies, Sibley, & Liu, 2014), Korea (CFI = 0.68; Glover et al., 2014), Sweden (CFI = 0.68; Nilsson & Erlandsson, 2015), and Turkey (CFI = 0.78; Yilmaz, Harma, Bahcekapili, & Cesur, 2016), as well as a 27 country study using the short-form MFQ (CFIs ≤ 0.70; Iurino & Saucier, submitted), all suggest a similar pattern. For this reason, an alternative two-factor model – consisting of an ‘individualising’ domain of Care and Fairness, and the ‘binding’ domain of Ingroup, Authority and Purity – is typically used in research (for example, see: Lewis and Bates, 2010, Smith et al., 2016).
Thus empirical research with the MFQ does not support MAC’s prediction that group, deference and fairness will be distinct domains; but it does support MAC’s prediction that domains not tied to specific forms of cooperation – namely Care and Purity – will not constitute distinct domains.
However, it is not clear whether these findings indicate a problem with the cooperative approach to morality in general, or merely a problem with the way that it has been operationalised and measured in Moral Foundations Theory and the MFQ. After all, proponents of MFT have acknowledged that the original list of foundations was somewhat “arbitrary” (p. 107), based on a limited review of only “five books and articles” (p. 107); that this list was never meant to be “exhaustive” (p. 104); and that they “do not know how many moral foundations there really are” (p. 58). And they have positively encouraged research that could “demonstrate the existence of an additional foundation, or show that any of the current five foundations should be merged or eliminated” (Graham et al., 2013, p. 99).
And so, in order to test MAC’s predictions – that there will be three additional domains (Family, Heroism, Property), that Reciprocity should not be merged with Fairness; and that Care and Purity should be eliminated – and to overcome the limitations of MFT and the MFQ, we set out to develop a new measure of morality, the ‘Morality-as-Cooperation Questionnaire’.6

[...][Methods, studies]

8. General discussion

Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) is the theory that morality consists of a collection of solutions to recurrent problems of cooperation. Here we have shown how the mathematics of cooperation – derived from evolutionary biology and nonzero sum game theory – can be used to develop this theory; and by identifying seven candidate types of cooperative behaviour, we have extended the theory to incorporate and explain more aspects of morality than previous cooperative accounts.
We have also tested MAC’s predictions regarding the content and structure of morality, over the course of four studies. Regarding content, the results support the prediction that all seven types of cooperative behaviours – helping kin, helping one’s group, reciprocating costs and benefits, displaying ‘hawkish’ and dove-ish traits, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession – will be considered relevant to morality. And regarding structure, the results support the prediction that there will be distinct moral domains dedicated to family, groups, reciprocity, heroism, deference, fairness and property. In this way, MAC goes beyond previous theories of morality, including MFT, to identify for the first time novel moral domains of morality relating to family, reciprocity, heroism and property.
More specifically, the results support MAC’s claim that (contrary to RMT) ‘family' can be distinguished from ‘group’, and (contrary to MFT and RMT) ‘reciprocity’ can be distinguished from ‘fairness’. And the results support MAC’s prediction that behaviour not tied to specific forms of cooperation (‘care’ and ‘purity’) will not form distinct moral domains (consistent with RMT, and RMT and TDM, respectively).
These studies have also produced a new scale for the measurement of morality – the MAC-Q – that exhibits broader and more detailed coverage than, and superior psychometric properties to, the previous leading scale. The results also question the routine combination of Relevance and Judgement scales. As originally anticipated (Graham et al., 2009), the Relevance and Judgement scales seem to measure somewhat disparate aspects of morality. Across three studies, we found consistent evidence indicating that Relevance and Judgement items should not be combined into a common scale without accounting for their differences. Until the reasons for this discrepancy between moral relevance and judgement is understood, we recommend either combining the measures using a MTMM model, as described above, or using one or both scales separately.

8.1. Limitations and future directions

First, the present study tested the general theory of MAC with respect to seven specific types of cooperation. Future research search should test the theory more widely still, using additional examples of cooperative behaviour. These might include ‘subcomponents’ of the types of cooperation discussed here; for example, ‘social exchange’ involves not just reciprocity, but also trust, gratitude, guilt, apology and forgiveness. Or it might include novel types of cooperation yet to be discovered or adumbrated by game theory and the behavioural sciences. Such research could extend MAC to other, as yet poorly understood, aspects of morality.
Second, the present study found that even though ‘care' and ‘purity' did not reliably emerge as unitary domains, the items they contained were nevertheless rated as relevant to morality. Future research should aim to explain why. Perhaps, as MAC suggests, these constructs reflect the operation of proximate mechanisms, such as sympathy and disgust, that contribute to the solution of multiple distinct problems of cooperation.15
Third, the present study has successfully ‘isolated’ seven different types of morality. Future research should investigate how they interact. For example, MAC predicts that having to choose between alternative, incompatible cooperative courses of action will give rise to moral dilemmas. Should you tend to your ailing mother, or go off to fight for your country (Sartre, 1946/1973)? MAC also predicts that when one cooperative opportunity is pursued at the expense of some larger more valuable opportunity (‘the greater good’), the former will be regarded as (relatively) morally bad (Muthukrishna, Francois, Pourahmadi, & Henrich, 2017). And MAC suggests that these seven first-order ‘moral elements’ may combine to form 21  second-order ‘moral molecules’ (and 35 third-order molecules, and so on). For example, Family and Deference may combine to form Filial Piety (Nichols, 2013). Investigating how dilemmas arise and are resolved, and how higher-order concepts emerge, could extend the explanatory scope of the theory further still.
Fourth, the present study has looked for invariant aspects of morality, in two English-speaking Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic cultures (W.E.I.R.D; Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010). Future research should test this factor-structure in a wider range of languages and cultures, and investigate how morality varies between individuals, within and between cultures – especially, whether moral values reflect the value of different types of cooperation under different social conditions.
Fifth, reviewing the final set of items, we note the possibility that some may be less-than-optimally phrased. For example, it’s possible that questions that use comparative (“there should be more X”), superlative (“Y is the most admirable trait”) or extreme (“you should always do Z”) terms may be somewhat ambiguous, and hence difficult to interpret. Participants may value X, but disagree with the item because they think there is enough of it; they may admire Y, but disagree with because they think it is the second most important trait; or they may endorse X, but disagree because they can conceive of plausible exceptions. This applies to MAC-Q items like “Society should do more to honour its heroes”, “Courage in the face of adversity is the most admirable trait”, and “You should always be loyal to your family”, as well as MFQ items like “It is more important to be a team player than to express oneself”, “Compassion for those who are suffering is the most crucial virtue”, “It can never be right to kill a human being”. Future research should experiment with simpler positive language, being mindful of the ceiling and floor effects that ‘milder' items may produce. We also note that the MAC-Q Heroism item “To be willing to lay down your life for your country is the height of bravery” introduces a possible confound with Mutualism, and should be avoided in future. In addition, we note that the Division items focus on the simplest form of fairness: equality. Future research should aim to explore other more nuanced expressions of fairness, such as proportionality or merit, which can lead to unequal outcomes (Starmans, Sheskin, & Bloom, 2017). Lastly, the item selection procedure delivered reversed Judgement items for Property, and for Property only, which may have introduced a confound in the valence of the items. Future work should investigate this, and if necessary correct it. Generally speaking, future research should aim to replicate the present findings with alternative sets of items, and indeed with other types of stimuli (such as standardised vignettes) (Clifford, Iyengar, Cabeza, & Sinnott-Armstrong, 2015).
Finally, the present study found that the MAC-Q’s psychometrics performed well, and compare favourably to the MFQ’s, but there is room for improvement, especially with regard to external criterion scales. Future research should aim to identify external scales which ask questions more directly related to the moral valence of the behaviour (rather than, as noted above, asking whether a person performs that behaviour). Such research should also extend beyond self-report scales to use performances on tasks, and behavioural measures such as experimental games.

9. Conclusion

Here we have introduced the theory of Morality-as-Cooperation, and shown how it provides a principled, predictive and productive approach to the content and structure of morality. Using cooperation as our compass, we have charted a new course, and drawn up a more accurate map of the moral landscape – revealing familiar ground in greater detail, and surveying previously unexplored territory. Thus equipped, with map and compass, we look forward to further discoveries ahead.

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