Most moral philosophers and psychologists focus on explicit moral beliefs that people give as answers to questions. However, much research in social psychology shows that implicit moral attitudes (unconscious beliefs or associations) also affect our thinking and behavior. This talk will report our new psychological and neuroscientific research on implicit moral attitudes (using a process dissociation procedure) and then explore potential implications for scientific moral psychology as well as for philosophical theories of moral epistemology, responsibility, and virtue. If there is time, I will discuss practical uses of these findings in criminal law, especially regarding the treatment of psychopaths and prediction of their recidivism.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He has published widely on ethics (theoretical and applied as well as meta-ethics), empirical moral psychology and neuroscience, philosophy of law, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and informal logic. His current work is on moral psychology and brain science as well as uses of neuroscience in legal systems.