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Traits of morality, Part 1: The Libertarian/Communitarian dimension of moral orientation.

MR Bore & D Munro

Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Australia

This paper presents theoretical and empirical findings of a Libertarian-Communitarian trait-like dimension of moral orientation. It is argued that each individual takes both cognitions concerning themselves as autonomous individuals, and the expectations of influential reference groups, into any context. When presented with moral stimuli, extreme Libertarian oriented individuals consistently give greater importance to individual rights, needs and welfare, and lesser importance to the needs, stability and expectations of the group and society. Conversely, extreme Communitarians give greater importance to the group and lesser importance to consequences for individuals. The Libertarian-Communitarian dimension appears theoretically related to, or may underlie, the Autonomous and Heteronomous Types of moral cognitive-developmentalism, socioanalytic moral theory, id and superego motivations, and evolutionary perspectives of moral behaviour. Empirically, a moral dilemma styled psychometric measure of the dimension was developed and administered in a number of studies to over 7,500 respondents. The dimension was found to be related to authoritarianism, religiosity, the Schwartz value types of Hedonism and Conformity, Factor G (Expedient/Rule-Conscious) of the Sixteen Personality Factors Questionnaire, but unrelated to a measure of Empathy. Part 2 of this paper explores a typology generated by the orthogonality of the Libertarian-Communitarian dimension and Empathy.