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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School of Behavioural and Social Sciences Research Master
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Moralizing short-distance flights

Date:22 June 2021
Author:Vladimir Bojarskich
Moralization is often looked at as an emotional or very cognitive process.
Moralization is often looked at as an emotional or very cognitive process.

My thesis topic is about moralization: how people develop moral versus non-moral attitudes. I focus in particular on how people develop a moral stance towards short-distance flights. 

A social process?
I think that this topic is very interesting, both theoretically and from a societal perspective. Theoretically, because we don’t know that much about how people develop a moral conviction towards something. Societally, because nowadays there are a lot of things happening when it comes to short-distance flights and climate change. From a psychological lens, moralization is often looked at as an emotional or very cognitive process; people develop their morals based on certain arguments or the emotions that they feel towards a specific issue. We were interested in the question of whether moralization is a social process. What happens when people with different or similar views come together and how does this facilitate the development of their morals?

Online experiment
In our study, we invited participants to join an online experiment. We first asked them to clarify their opinions on whether they were in favour of or against short-distance flights. Then, we invited them to participate in different experimental conditions. A set of profiles of people with similar or dissimilar opinions about flying were shown to the participants. As part of the experiment, the participants had to take the perspective of each person in their group and give an elaborate answer to the question of whether short-distance flights should or should not be banned. We were interested to see how these different or similar views influenced people’s moral beliefs about short-distance flights. 

A double-edged sword
During our research, we also focused on the consequences of moralizing an issue; specifically, the development of a moral conviction towards short-distance flights. So, for example, we asked participants to what extent they would like to be friends or cooperate with people with different views on this topic. We also asked them about their support for certain policies and whether they intend to fly more or less in the future. In this way, we wanted to test the double-edged sword of moralization: on the one hand, if you hold something to a moral standard, it motivates your personal and political actions towards your cause. On the other hand, the negative side of moralization can be that it distances you from others who think differently. 

Learning experience
What I’ve learned from this research is that it is quite difficult to observe a social process and group conversations. It is challenging to find the right setup so that you can control experimental variables in a scientific way. It has been a learning experience to develop a somewhat more artificial environment to really ensure the differences between the experimental conditions. Overall, I am very excited about this research topic. There is so much more that we can learn about moralization in general. I am looking forward to continuing with it.

We are currently following up with a second study in which we are attempting to replicate our findings. We are therefore trying to make sure that what we found in the first study really exists and also to improve a lot of aspects from the first study. Depending on the results of our second study, we hope to publish the results at some point. Since March, I have also been following a PhD programme at the Institute of Communication Science at the University of Jena, Germany, where I am working on a project to understand online hatred in polarized political controversies.

About the author

Vladimir Bojarskich
Vladimir Bojarskich

Vladimir (26, Germany) has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Groningen. During his Research Master’s programme in Behavioural and Social Sciences, he specialized in social psychology (Understanding Societal Change).