Most of the time, swaying other people’s opinion during a political argument, is a near impossibility. However, a new research suggests that just one word can turn an opposing view into a favorable one.
A team of researchers from Ohio State University recently published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that revealed a connection linking morality to a change in opinion, The Washington Post reported.
The study suggested that just by presenting an idea with a “moral” justification, it automatically protects itself from attacks.
The research team, headed by doctoral student Andrew Luttrell, conducted a series of tests to check if there’s any change of opinion once the viewpoint was declared to be “moral.”
A hundred participants, divided into three groups, were given information and then asked to provide their views on them.
The first group, consisting of university students, were asked to write down their views on a new senior exam policy. The researchers then gave “feedback” on their thoughts, marking some ideas as reflecting tradition or while other views were tagged as showing morality.
“While your thoughts were similar to other students’ on a variety of dimensions, you seem to have based your thoughts about senior comprehensive exams on morality/tradition more than the average student.”
The researchers found that just by telling someone their opinion was moral-based, it became more powerful. The experiment revealed that a higher number of those given the “morality” feedback said they were willing to sign a petition to support and vote in favor of the bogus policy,
The other two experiments, one composed of college students again, the other varying ages of adults, were done in similar fashion but focused on recycling as their subjects.
The group all agreed that “Recycling is a good thing”. The participants again wrote their individual views and received feedback. Some were marked as “practical,” while others were tagged as “moral.”
The researchers then attempted to change all viewpoints by slipping each respondent a note that said recycling meant more cars will be on the road and thus contribute more on pollution.
A test given after revealed that the “moral” individuals stuck with a favorable view (7.56 on a nine-point scale), while the “practical” respondents were a bit swayed to mark a lower score (6.88).
“Those led to believe that their recycling attitudes were grounded in morality were more resistant to the anti-recycling message than those led to believe that their attitudes were grounded in practicality,” the report said.
Luttrell is convinced that politicians and advocates who attach “morality” in their causes are exploiting a smart tactic.
“Is moral a magic word?” Luttrell said. “In some ways, it might be. We grow up thinking morality is this thing that’s untouchable. What’s moral is permanent and cannot be challenged.”