Moral Persuasion Hypothetical: Homosexuality Research Paper

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Research Paper on Moral Persuasion Hypothetical: Homosexuality Assignment

>>>For your final paper, your task is to outline a plan to convince your fellow students of a moral position -- an effort at moral persuasion. Specifically, you must: 1) Pick a moral belief to target. Because this is a hypothetical task, it can be anything that you think would be interesting to write about (e.g., convincing people that the death penalty or abortion is right/wrong, that insects have moral rights, that it is wrong to wear long-sleeve shirts on Wednesdays, that everyone should donate part of their income to feed the poor, etc.). 2) Outline 3 strategies for moral persuasion. The majority of the paper will be spent on outlining the steps you would take to successfully persuade your fellow students. Using what you've learned about in class and what you've researched on your own on the topic, you will need to list 3 strategies that you would implement in order to morally persuade others. You can be creative in the strategies you propose, but make sure that they are informed and can be defended by an appeal to the empirical work on moral psychology. Again, since this is a hypothetical task, you can list strategies that might be difficult or costly to implement, as long as they are not entirely unrealistic (e.g., proposing an expensive ad campaign would be fine, but proposing mandatory one-on-one hypnosis sessions for every student at the school would not). Specific Reference Pages?) You must cite at least 3 three of the articles that were assigned reading in the course. Describe the studies reported or the arguments made, and how they support your selection of strategies. 2) You must reference at least 1 peer-reviewed, empirical journal article (i.e., that reports novel findings) that was NOT assigned in the course, and that would support your response. The best place to look for a peer reviewed article is on the Cornell library website -- specifically in the PsychInfo database (which is the primary database for psychological research). Google scholar ( is also a great resource.

In the so-called "golden age" of Classical Greece in Athens in the 5th century BCE, the notion of persuasion -- the use of rhetoric and reasoning to persuade another person to change beliefs or opinions -- was actually worshipped as a goddess. The name of the ancient Greek goddess "Peitho" literally just means "persuasion" in Attic Greek, and indicates that the concept of persuasion was built into the Athenian legal system, where trial by jury had as central a place in the culture as it does in contemporary American culture. In twenty-first century America, moral persuasion continues to play a crucial role in courtrooms, the electoral process, advertising, public policy debates, personal conversation, and pretty much everywhere else: the idea of having an open mind and being willing to listen to reasoning and rhetoric in the sake of argument is indeed considered a positive quality in America in 2015, even persuasion itself is no longer worshipped as a goddess like the ancient Greeks did. But how open are contemporary Americans to moral persuasion? Would it be possible to persuade Americans that, for example, homosexual behavior should no longer be marginalized and oppressed, but instead made into the central organizing principle of cultural life in the way that it was in the ancient Greece of Socrates and Sappho? I would like to use this hypothetical moral belief -- suggesting a moral change from a belief set where homosexual behavior is no longer stigmatized and marginalized (as in contemporary America) but instead is valorized and indeed mandatory as in 5th century Athens. What strategies could be used in order to persuade all of America that homosexuals should not be a minority in this country, but should be as common as Christians or licensed automobile drivers?

We must begin by asking: is it possible to persuade someone -- even an entire society -- to change sexual orientation? Considered in the opposite direction from our hypothetical topic of persuasion -- in other words, considering a change in orientation from straight to gay -- is extremely controversial in 2015 America. The largest organization that purported to be able to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, Exodus International, was shut down in 2013, and indeed the so-called "conversion therapy," a pseudo-medical practice supposedly designed to persuade gay teenagers to become straight, which they offered has now been made illegal in a number of jurisdictions, like the entire state of California. However in many cases such conversion therapy relies upon things that go beyond the ordinary techniques of persuasion, to include what has been called "aversion therapy." This would entail taking the "patient," presumably a young homosexual, and attempting to instill in the patient an associative sense between homosexual activity and the sense of disgust: so for example, in the 1960s, a psychiatrist could use electrical-shock equipment (designed by Farrall Instruments) to force a gay male to watch images of homosexual and heterosexual activity with electrodes attached to his genitals, and would receive a painful shock every time the homosexual images would be displayed. The notion was that the patient would become biologically conditioned to become averse to the homosexual images, and to cease experiencing arousal upon beholding them. If this sounds like a torture method employed at Abu Ghraib, that is because this method of "persuasion" has now been deemed inhumane. And yet it is worth noting that the same basic principle was studied by Wheatley and Haidt (2005) who demonstrate that the notion of disgust -- which is a form of unpleasant sensation that is perhaps more complicated than the infliction of pain by electric shock -- can influence moral judgments: they hypnotized study participants to associate a specific random word with a sensation of disgust, and then found that "participants found moral transgressions to be more disgusting when their hypnotic disgust word was embedded" within a hypothetical moral scenario then when it was not (781).

Wheatley and Haidt's 2005 study deserves further consideration, however, in light of our hypothetical scenario of getting America to go gay: the authors' "hypothesis that disgust contributes to moral judgment" in their experimental set-up was tied to the "posthypnotic suggestion to experience a 'brief pang of disgust…a sickening feeling in your stomach' when reading a particular word, but to have no memery for this instruction until cued to remember" (780). In other words, this was a simple word association with a word that was not intrinsically related to the issues of revulsion in the experimental vignettes that were brought forth (which involved issues like incest, political corruption, eating a dead dog, and breaches of law and ethic). It turned out that the vignettes containing the hypnotically-conditioned neutral word, now turned into a trigger for physical sensation of disgust, were actually effective at making the participants disgusted and in strengthening their moral sense of revulsion against the activity described. How does this relate to our hypothetical question, though? It is arguably the most crucial insight that we can apply to our hypothetical, as homosexuality is already an action that is viewed by some people (not all) with a sense of visceral disgust, and by some people with a sense of moral intolerance. Not all who view homosexuality with visceral disgust are intolerant -- it is not difficult to encounter a straight man or woman in 2015 who does not think homosexuals should be penalized or stigmatized, but who does find the contemplation of their sexual activities to be repulsive. In trying to promote homosexuality, we would have to acknowledge the simple fact is that a large number of Americans are already conditioned, not by hypnosis, to associate homosexuality with a sense of disgust. As a result, our hypothetical could never be achieved without first addressing the societal conditioning that occurs, which is reminiscent of Wheatley and Haidt's study. A word like "faggot" could be understood as the equivalent of Wheatley and Haidt's posthypnotic suggestion to link a random word with the sensation of physical disgust, in part because the implications behind "faggot" -- of a male who enjoys passive anal sex -- can be linked quite easily by young persons using the word with issues that provoke physiological aversion responses, like pain and excrement, both of which are associated in the popular discourse with passive anal sex. Therefore the first step towards large-scale moral persuasion on the subject of homosexuality would have to be linguistic -- a speech code would be required which reversed this valence completely, and not only were words associated with homosexuality no longer words that provoked a visceral disgust reaction, but the vocabulary associated with heterosexuality would have to be organized in such a way as to promote disgust. The status quo in 2015 indicates a broad popular movement to police the linkage… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Moral Persuasion Hypothetical: Homosexuality.  (2015, May 11).  Retrieved August 7, 2020, from

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"Moral Persuasion Hypothetical: Homosexuality."  May 11, 2015.  Accessed August 7, 2020.