What is Cognitive Science
A Critique of the Moral / Conventional Distinction
Thursday, October 20, 2005, 12:00pm - 07:00pm
Rutgers University, Dept. of Philosophy
The moral / conventional task has been widely used to study the emergence
of moral understanding in children and to explore the deficits in moral
understanding in clinical populations. Previous studies have indicated
that moral transgressions, particularly those in which a victim is harmed,
evoke a signature pattern of responses in the moral / conventional task:
they are judged to be serious, generalizable and not authority dependent.
Moreover, this signature pattern is held to be pan-cultural and to emerge
early in development. However, almost all the evidence for these claims
comes from studies using harmful transgressions of the sort that primary
school children might commit in the schoolyard. In a study conducted on
the internet, my colleagues and I used a much wider range of harm
transgressions, and found that they do not evoke the signature pattern of
responses found in studies using only schoolyard transgressions. Along
with studies conducted previously by others, our study provides grounds
for skepticism about many conclusions drawn from earlier work using the
moral / conventional task.
"What is Cognitive Science?"
This lunchtime talks series is designed to introduce the University community to issues in Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science is one the the few fields where modern developments in computer science and artificial intelligence promise to shed light on classical problems in psychology and the philosophy of the mind. Ancient questions of how we see the world, understand language, and reason, and questions such as 'how a material system can know about the outside world', are being explored with the powerful new conceptual prosthetics of computer modeling.
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