The paucity of morality in everyday talk

Mohammad Atari, Matthias R. Mehl, Jesse Graham, John M. Doris, Norbert Schwarz, Aida Mostafazadeh Davani, Ali Omrani, Brendan Kennedy, Elaine Gonzalez, Nikki Jafarzadeh, Alyzeh Hussain, Arineh Mirinjian, Annabelle Madden, Rhea Bhatia, Alexander Burch, Allison Harlan, David A. Sbarra, Charles L. Raison, Suzanne A. Moseley, Angelina J. PolsinelliMorteza Dehghani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Given its centrality in scholarly and popular discourse, morality should be expected to figure prominently in everyday talk. We test this expectation by examining the frequency of moral content in three contexts, using three methods: (a) Participants’ subjective frequency estimates (N = 581); (b) Human content analysis of unobtrusively recorded in-person interactions (N = 542 participants; n = 50,961 observations); and (c) Computational content analysis of Facebook posts (N = 3822 participants; n = 111,886 observations). In their self-reports, participants estimated that 21.5% of their interactions touched on morality (Study 1), but objectively, only 4.7% of recorded conversational samples (Study 2) and 2.2% of Facebook posts (Study 3) contained moral content. Collectively, these findings suggest that morality may be far less prominent in everyday life than scholarly and popular discourse, and laypeople, presume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5967
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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