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How culture shapes our moral identity : a cross-cultural investigation in Saudi Arabia and Britain.

Alsheddi, Mona (2018) How culture shapes our moral identity : a cross-cultural investigation in Saudi Arabia and Britain. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Moral identity, which is based on moral concerns, is one of the many types of identities that an individual may have. In recent literature, spanning the period from the 1980s to the present - including the work of the prominent researcher into moral identity, Blasi, and Aquino and Reed, who developed their widely used moral identity scale in 2000 - there has been a persistent assumption that fairness and caring, or the individualising moral foundations, comprise the entire contents of moral identity. However, it is well documented that broader cultural differences are considered to have a clear effect on individuals, as cultures vary in the degree to which their norms, values and beliefs influence individual identities. Despite this, no published studies have explored moral identity with respect to culture. Thus, in this thesis, I argued that culture influences people’s moral identity, and that we need to consider and expect more moral variation between people across different cultures. I aimed here to develop an understanding of the importance of culture influence on moral identity in two cultural contexts, those of Britain and Saudi Arabia. In Study 1 (n=160), I employed the prototype approach, and my results show that traits related to fairness/reciprocity and care/harm were prototypical of the concept of a moral person among both the British and Saudi participants. Meanwhile, respect, as well as traits related to religiousness, were prototypical of the concept of a moral person in only the Saudi sample. In Study 2, (n = 539), participants from each culture were randomly assigned one of six conditions where they completed moral identity measures. In each condition, participants were presented either with a person characterised by the exact moral traits listed in Aquino and Reed’s (2002) moral identity scale, or with a person characterised by moral traits represent one of the five moral foundations. Also, for each condition, the moral traits important in the participants’ own culture were examined. The results showed large differences between the British and Saudi samples with regard to three moral foundations: in-group/loyalty; authority/respect and purity/sanctity, all three of which relate to binding concerns. These differences were mediated by the perceived cultural importance of these traits in each sample, particularly the binding traits. In Study 3 (n=938), I developed a novel moral identity scale and tested it for its reliability and validity in overcoming the shortcomings of previous scales used to measure moral identity, particularly the overlooked element of cultural variations in morality. Finally, in Study 4 (n=496), and given that there is an assumption in the literature that moral identity which is based on the individualising moral foundations (particularly caring and fairness) has always pro-social implications. I argued in this study that when we expand our understanding of moral identity to include the long-overlooked binding moral approach (e.g., authority, purity, in-group loyalty), moral identity may relate to negative attitudes toward out-groups. The results supported the idea that we need not take for granted that moral identity contributes to a reduction in prejudice. The results also indicated that the new moral identity scale is better than Aquino and Reed’s (2002) moral identity scale in its ability to predict prejudice attitudes. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that the contents of moral identity are more diverse than has been assumed in the moral identity research. In addition, the results indicate that there is a need to be mindful of a dark side to moral identity that is often neglected, specifically when we, as researchers, recognise and include various moral concerns in the conceptualisation and measurements of moral identity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Alsheddi, Mona
Date : 31 July 2018
Funders : Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia
Contributors :
Depositing User : Mona Alsheddi
Date Deposited : 06 Aug 2018 08:37
Last Modified : 31 Jul 2019 02:08

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