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Shaping the modern world with a stone-age brain: the Brexit referendum and the moral foundations theory.

Smith, David S.

Authors

David S. Smith



Abstract

Decision making is not always a reasoned process. It is often subject to reflexive heuristics. The Moral Foundations Theory is a popular theoretical framework that characterises political decisions by adherence to an evolutionary criterion. Based on recurrent ancestral pressures, this model anticipates our species’ tribal history has resulted in a set of intuitive ethics: Care/Harm, Fairness/ Cheating, Loyalty/ Betrayal, Authority/ Subversion, and Sanctity/ Degradation. Focusing on the winning side, this paper analyses official communications, polling data and media coverage to explore how the Leave campaigners strategically appealed to the public’s moral intuitions. In doing so, it aims to show why evolutionary psychology potentially offers a useful layer of analysis with which to understand contemporary politics.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 31, 2019
Journal Journal of social and political psychology
Electronic ISSN 2195-3325
Publisher PsychOpen
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages 863-889
Institution Citation SMITH, D.S. 2019. Shaping the modern world with a stone-age brain: the Brexit referendum and the moral foundations theory. Journal of social and political psychology [online], 7(2), pages 863-889. Available from: https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v7i2.1032
DOI https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v7i2.1032
Keywords Brexit; Evolutionary psychology; UK; European Union; Moral foundations theory

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