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Communication and Moral Complexity

SSRN lists a new article, Moral Conflict and Complexity: The Dynamics of Constructive Versus Destructive Discussions Over Polarizing Issues. The authors’ abstract, which you can access here, describes the contents as:

Moral conflicts, whether over abortion, the death penalty, or the ‘right’ approach to addressing terrorism, pose serious challenges to societies worldwide. They can quickly escalate and polarize communities, and then trap people in destructive spirals of negativity, intergroup contempt and even violence. But moral conflicts need not spiral out of control, and can be managed constructively. This article sheds light on why and how. One laboratory study investigating the underlying temporal dynamics of moral conflict is presented, based on the following idea: the basic dynamics of protracted, destructive conflicts are those which have lost the complexity and balance inherent to more constructive social relations, and have collapsed into overly-simplified, coherent, self-organizing patterns which become resistant to change. The study, an experiment which induced high and low levels of integrative complexity, found relations between higher levels of emotional, cognitive and behavioral complexity and openness and more constructive moral conflict dynamics, and lower-levels of these parameters with more destructive dynamics. Results provide strong support for the main hypotheses. Implications and next steps for this research are discussed.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.