"Right on Time": on the relationships between moral concepts and temporal discounting

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Philosophical traditions place self-restraint at the centre of virtue ethics, while recent theoretical and empirical work in moral psychology suggests that self-control is 'the master virtue' (Baumeister & Exline, 1999, p. 1165). However, the connections between moral attitudes and impulsivity have rarely been addressed explicitly; this thesis investigated these relationships. Chapter 1 presented theoretical and empirical rationales for our investigations, and introduced our measures of moral attitudes and impulsivity: Moral Foundations Theory and Temporal Discounting, respectively. Chapter 3 demonstrated the test-retest stability of a temporal discounting measure used in much of the thesis.Chapters 2 and 4 investigated relationships between impulsivity and concerns for the five moral themes elucidated by Moral Foundations theory. Positive relationships between the Moral Foundations and temporal discounting rates were detected, but only where participants were required to bid on delayed monies with their own funds (Chapter Four). Moreover, correlations were mediated by education for the'Binding' moral foundations (Loyalty, Authority & Purity) but not the Individualising foundations. We submit that loss aversion played a role in these results, which is congruent with moral theories that argue for the primacy of emotional processes in moral cognition.Chapters 5, 6 and 7 investigated the effects of external cues (i.e. supraliminal primes) on impulsivity. Contrary to expectations, primes related to 'Fairness' produced within-subjects increases in temporal discounting rates (Chapter Five). However, an attempted replication of the effect, also employing Shariff and Norenzayan's (2007) religion priming task, detected no priming effects on discounting rates (Chapter 6).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • McKay, Ryan, Principal Supervisor
  • Luck, Morgan, Co-Supervisor
Award date25 Mar 2013
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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