Beyond Kohlberg vs. Gilligan: Empathy and Disgust Sensitivity Mediate Gender Differences in Moral Judgments

38 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 15 Sep 2014

See all articles by Sena Koleva

Sena Koleva

New York University; University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology; California State University Los Angeles

Dylan Selterman

University of Maryland

Hannah Kang

University of California, Irvine

Jesse Graham

University of Southern California

Date Written: August 23, 2014

Abstract

A landmark debate in moral psychology concerns gender differences in moral judgment. This debate concluded that, when making moral judgments, women are primarily driven by moral concerns about caring for others, whereas men are primarily driven my moral concerns about fairness/justice. However, empirical findings have been inconsistent and limited to a “care and justice” conceptualization of morality. Using recent advances in morality research, we examine gender differences in moral judgment and emotion. Across 10 studies (including over 150,000 participants and two nationally-representative U.S. samples) we find that, relative to men, women a) have clearly stronger moral concerns related to care and purity, b) are less utilitarian, c) have a stronger sense of moral identity, and d) moralize everyday actions more. Furthermore, we show that these effects are mediated by gender differences in the emotion tendencies of empathic concern and disgust sensitivity. Finally, we show that these gender differences in moral judgment are consequential in three everyday contexts: parenting, politics, and group stereotypes.

Keywords: morality, moral judgment, gender, emotion, empathy, disgust

Suggested Citation

Koleva, Spassena and Koleva, Spassena and Selterman, Dylan and Kang, Hannah and Graham, Jesse, Beyond Kohlberg vs. Gilligan: Empathy and Disgust Sensitivity Mediate Gender Differences in Moral Judgments (August 23, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2486030

Spassena Koleva (Contact Author)

New York University

20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
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University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology ( email )

4312 Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

California State University Los Angeles ( email )

5151 State University Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90032
United States

Dylan Selterman

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Hannah Kang

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA California 62697-3125
United States

Jesse Graham

University of Southern California ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States
2137409535 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.usc.edu/grahamlab

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