Morteza Dehghani: “Investigating and Modeling the Role of Cultural Narratives in Moral Decision-Making”

June 30, 2011 | Arlington, VA

Speaker: Morteza Dehghani
Host: Narrative Networks (N2)

Sacred values are different from secular values in that they are often associated with violations of the cost-benefit logic of rational choice models. Understanding and modeling the impacts of sacred values on decision making is especially important in resolving intergroup conflicts and negotiations. While a secular value can easily be substituted with another value, tradeoffs involving a sacred value result in strong negative emotions and moral outrage. In this talk, I first examine Iran’s stance on its national nuclear program, using it as an indicator of how sacred values can emerge from sacred rhetoric. Next, I examine whether the principles of analogical retrieval and mapping govern the processes by which cultural and sacred narratives are applied. In particular, I examine how analogical accessibility and alignability influence the use of canonical moral narratives. To understand and model this process computationally, I have developed MoralDM as a model of recognition-based moral decision-making. This model relies on a combination of first-principles reasoning and analogical reasoning to model the recognition- based mode of decision making. Overall, I argue that understanding sacred values and the processes by which they emerge are vital for understanding and modeling decision-making in cultural contexts.