Research Article

The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum

  • Jesse Graham mail,

    Affiliation: Psychology Department, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

  • Brian A. Nosek,

    Affiliation: Psychology Depatment, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America

  • Jonathan Haidt

    Affiliation: Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York, United States of America

  • Published: December 12, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050092

Reader Comments (2)

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Posted by Stupid1 on 14 Dec 2012 at 03:49 GMT

In the study you site as morals:


ingroup loyalty
authorities and traditions
physical/spiritual purity

I'm curious if you have an explanation for how "ingroup loyalty" can be seen as morally equal with fairness and compassion when often it is group mentality that leads to bad behavior, how "deference to authority can be seen as equal when we see numerous examples around the globe of corrupt and dangerous leaders, and how purity at all can be seen as equal when it is the core trait that leads to bigotry and isolationism?

Please help me understand how these "morals" are equal.Thanks.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Clarification?

bnosek replied to Stupid1 on 14 Dec 2012 at 16:46 GMT

Dear Stupid (if I may use your first name, or is it your last name?),

Your comment raises a very important point. Moral Foundations Theory is a descriptive theory, not a normative one. That means that it takes no position on whether these moral motivations are good or bad, justifiable or unjustifiable. So, reasonable and unreasonable people can disagree whether a particular foundation is morally defensible. More detail on this is available from papers about the theory available at my website ( as well as Jon and Jesse's -- they are more central contributors to the development of the theory. You can see the latest review here:


Competing interests declared: I am an author of the original article and desperately hope to avoid embarrassment of any kind, other than what is self-generated.