Beliefs, Values and Moral Attitudes

Beliefs and Values are important predictors of individuals’ social and moral attitudes. Studies on moral attitudes suffer from two important shortcomings:

  1. A valid measurement of values is difficult to achieve. Concepts like Inglehart’s post-materialism have only weak effects on moral attitudes. It seems that the concept and it’s measurement need a thorough revision. The theory of basic human values by Shalom Schwartz provides a more differentiated concept that performs better when explaining social and moral attitudes (Beckers/Siegers/Kuntz 2012). Given the complexity of the measurement, it is much less frequently used for explaining social and moral attitudes then post-materialism.
  2. Religious beliefs are frequently used as a predictor for moral attitudes, particularly in studies of sexual morality. Recent developments in sociology of religion have shown that new forms of beliefs emerged in Europe (e.g. alternative spiritualities, bricolage religiosity). Bruce and Voas (2007) argue that the eclectic character of new beliefs prevents them from being socially significant. Their argument has not been tested empirically yet.

In addition, some preliminary analyses have shown that beliefs and values are highly correlated (both religious beliefs and spirituality). The question is, whether beliefs still have an impact on attitudes when values are controlled. Some pattern in the data indicates that more complex interdependencies between values and beliefs exist when it comes to the explanation of moral attitudes. The reason is that beliefs and values provide normative standards for attitude formation that might converge but also conflict.

The project will systematically study interdependences between beliefs and values. We will work with differentiated value concepts and systematically consider new forms of religious beliefs for theorizing and empirical analysis.

Together with Dr. Tilo Beckers, we were awarded a research grant of the University of Düsseldorf for the research project. More information (in German)

Relevant publications:

Religious Prosociality and Morality Across Cultures: How Social Enforcement of Religion Shapes the Effects of Personal Religiosity on Prosocial and Moral Attitudes and Behaviors. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulltin (in press) (together with Olga Stavrova).

Congruence of Beliefs and Values: Religiosity, Spirituality and Basic Human Values (under review)

Congruence and Performance of Value Concepts in Social Research. In: Survey Research Methods. Vol. 6, No. 1, 13-24 (together with Tilo Beckers and Anabel Kuntz).