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RESEARCH

CAUSES OF ECONOMIC INEQUALITY

Inequality has been the norm throughout human history until the shocks of the 20th century—especially mass mobilization for the world wars—spurred support for progressive public policies around taxation and social welfare. Our past work suggests that the reason why this happened is because interdependence is a critical driver of support for social justice (Carnes, in review; Janoff-Bulman & Carnes, 2013). We are currently investigating how this relationship informs the perpetuation of inequality, and whether sacrifice serves as a signal of impartiality for the moral sentiment of social justice.

FUNCTION OF MORALITY IN GROUPS

The evolutionary function of morality is to make cooperative group life possible so that humans can reap the benefits of sociality. Our past work suggests that people use a suite of different moral principles to make group life go (Carnes, Lickel, & Janoff-Bulman, 2015), and that one of the functions morality serves is to bind groups together (Carnes & Lickel, in press). We are currently investigating other functions that morality serves such as signaling, preventing exploitation, and enabling cooperation or coordination.

DYNAMICS OF INTRACTABLE CONFLICT

Moral violence is qualitatively different from instrumental violence. Our past work suggests that group cohesion, especially after shared dysphoric experiences, helps drive moral violence (Carnes & Lickel, in press). We are currently investigating how conflict escalates (and stays escalated) differently in moral versus instrumental contexts. This is a collaboration with the Culture and Intergroup Relations Lab.

POLARIZATION VERSUS MOBILIZATION

Political polarization is at its worst since the civil war era. Even though this political divide is driven by an emphasis on different moral principles, our past work suggests that the moral values of liberals and conservatives are complementary at the societal level (Janoff-Bulman & Carnes, 2016). We are currently investigating how modern political advertising drives suboptimal outcomes for both sides of the aisle, and how different ballot systems can improve outcomes.