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Conservatives less accepting of new technology due to traditional morals

  • Date: Tue, May 14, 2024

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Binding foundations emphasise values consistent with in-group loyalty, authority, and purity, including; concern about contamination of the body; deference to authority and respect for traditions; patriotism, and willingness to self-sacrifice for the group.

Innovations such as mRNA vaccines, AI, or lab-grown meats often challenge or disrupt the status quo. More importantly, innovations can clash with established moral norms or ethical codes, being met with resistance, particularly from conservatives.

“Innovations perceived as impure or a threat to social order or traditions elicit greater opposition from those identifying as politically conservative,” says Dr. Marius Claudy, Associate Professor of Marketing at UCD College of Business. “For example, climate technologies often provoke apprehension about current social order from conservative stakeholders because of their potential to disrupt traditional industries and social cohesion.” Likewise, lab-grown meats are often seen as unnatural and impure and are more likely to be rejected by conservatives.

Interestingly, conservatives and liberals both care about individualising foundations; values that try to minimise harm and promote values like fairness, justice and autonomy. Most policies and regulations aimed at new technologies try to minimise harm for individuals and wider society.

Dr. Claudy and colleagues used three studies to explore how differences in political ideology determine moral judgements and acceptance of technological innovations.

Study 1 confirmed liberals and conservatives vary in acceptance of technological innovations due to differing moral foundations, using examples such as self-driving cars, tissue engineering, and facial recognition software. Study 2 analysed newspaper articles that discussed CRISPR gene editing from liberal and conservative outlets and found politically conservative outlets were more likely to express negative sentiments about the innovation.

Study 3 reframed technologies in line with binding and individualising moral foundations. The findings show technology acceptance is higher among conservatives when the innovation is framed in line with the binding morals, e.g., stating that using AI in recruitment could eliminate those with criminal records or those who misrepresented education or work history, strengthening organisational values and culture.

These findings are important for managers and policy-makers aiming to diffuse morally contentious innovations, such as genetically modified foods or renewable energies. Understanding how morals influence judgements about innovations can enable innovators and managers to take on board societal concerns and develop innovations more responsibly.

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