New York: “Purity” is indeed the moral foundation of human relationships, say researchers, suggesting that conflicting values of purity are responsible for driving people apart while shared values of purity bring them together.
After analysing 731,000 tweets, the researchers were able to map the social networks of 188,467 users and analyse the social distance between those users.
They then used computational text analysis to measure those users’ moral concerns.
The results showed the degree to which Twitter users expressed moral purity, over all other moral concerns, could accurately predict how close their social interactions were.
“The moral concern of purity, out of all the moral values, was the best predictor of distance between two people,” said Morteza Dehghani, lead author from University of Southern California.
The researchers tested how social distance between people would be affected by five groups of basic moral concerns – care and harm, fairness and cheating, loyalty and betrayal, authority and subversion, and purity and degradation.
“We started by observing relationships on Twitter, and by looking at distance between people – who they follow on Twitter and the type of rhetoric that they use,” Dehghani added.
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Concerns about purity could have to do with physical purity, like disgust or cleansing, but also a kind of spiritual purity.
“These are things like treating the body like a temple instead of a playground, resisting our lower carnal desires in favour of a higher, divine nature,” noted study co-author Jesse Graham.
“It has a spiritual-moral dimension to it, but it’s not necessarily explicitly religious,” Graham added in a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Additionally, purity did not simply divide the liberals from the conservatives, as one may think, Medical Daily reported.
When the researchers separated the Twitter users into two distinct political groups, purity still predicted social distance within each of those groups.
“This could have potential implications for understanding political migrations, both in online social networks and in real life,” Dehghani pointed out.
When people believed they matched highly on purity, they wished to be physically and socially closer to that person and vice versa.
Again, purity, above all other moral domains, had the most influence, the authors said.