[ExI] EP and morality and dogs

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Dec 11 20:35:43 UTC 2007

At 11:32 AM 12/11/2007, Seien wrote:
>Dogs? The last I checked, those kinds of animal were effectively 
>computer programmed (or at least, simulatable by code). Morality is 
>rational and therefore dynamic. How can you combine the two? :)

There was a study I read years ago (which I have not yet found again) 
where dog breeds were tested for "moral" behavior.  Understand that 
dogs, being pack animals already *had* moral behaviors, but humans 
have selected for more of less of these psychological traits ub 
different breeds depending on the use of the dog breed.

The test involved hungry dogs of different breeds being placed where 
they thought they were not being watched and could take food that was 
not given to them.  There was considerable consistent behavior among 
animals of the same breed and great divergence between breeds.  Since 
the difference between breeds is genetic, QED.

I would also say you considerably over rate "rational."  People are 
in my experience far more into rationalizing what they want to do 
from a much deeper psychological level than they are at setting up 
"wants" as a outcome of rational thinking, that is thinking under 
formal logic rules.

There is a vast literature on this subject that has developed in the 
last 15 years, with the more interesting parts of it being more 
recent and involving a lot of functional MRI.   Here are a few I 
picked up while looking for the dog moral study.  I don't agree with 
all of what they say of course, but they are indicative of the flux 
of research going on in this area.

The Origin of Intuitions
Perhaps because moral norms vary by culture,
class, and historical era, psychologists have
generally assumed that morality is learned in
childhood, and they have set out to discover how
morality gets from outside the child to inside. The
social intuitionist model takes a different view. It
proposes that morality, like language, is a major
evolutionary adaptation for an intensely social
species, built into multiple regions of the brain and
body, which is better described as emergent than as
learned, yet which requires input and shaping from a
particular culture. Moral intuitions are therefore
both innate and enculturated. The present section
describes the ways in which moral intuitions are
innate, while the next section describes the ways in
which they are shaped by culture during


Very interesting paper that makes the case that human traits have 
more in common with wild dogs than they do with chimps and offers the 
possibility that humans were selected for these behaviors after they 
partnered with dogs.



Guilt, shame, embarrassment,
jealousy, pride and other states
that depend on a social context.
They arise later in development
and evolution than the basic
emotions (happiness, fear, anger,
disgust, sadness) and require an
extended representation of
oneself as situated within a
society. They function to
regulate social behaviours, often
in the long-term interests of a
social group rather than the
short-term interests of the
individual person.

Functional and/or anatomical
components that are relatively
specialized to process only
certain kinds of information.
Modules were originally thought
of as cognitively impenetrable
and informationally
encapsulated (having restricted
access to only certain
information). Although most
people do not view modules in
such strict terms, there is
evidence of domain-specific
processing that is specialized for
specific ecological categories
(such as faces and social contract
violations), although there is
debate on this issue.



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