Pay Laurin Jessen
Pay Laurin Jessen

BIGSSS, Universität Bremen


Unicom, Haus 9, Room: 7.3130

Regular Ph.D. Fellow, Cohort 2021

Research Interests

  • Norms
  • Human Morality
  • Attitudes
  • Prejudice
  • Inter/Intra-Group Relations
  • Intergroup Conflict
  • Integration
  • Social Identity
  • Human Evolution
  • (Cross-)Cultural Psychology

Dissertation topic
Variances in Human Morality from a Cross-Cultural Perspective — An Inquiry on the Role of Self-Construal

Dissertation abstract
We evolved to be a cultural species. The socio-cultural context surrounding us is pivotal in the construction of our social reality and radiates in every aspect of our psychology. Also, our flow of consciousness that culminates in and centers around an individual construal of selfhood is culture-dependent. Furthermore, research has shown that we evolved to be a moral species. Morality suppresses and regulates our selfish tendencies and makes us a social being — hence, morality is central for all forms of human cooperation and thus, an integral element holding each society together. Although morality is universal to humans, recent findings suggest the assumption that the endorsement of moral domains may differ across cultures. In this respect Jonathan Haidt proposed a group centered approach to morality ("binding" morality) and an individual centered approach to morality ("individualizing" morality), which from a theoretical stance appears to be mirrored in variant self-construals (i.e., interdependent and independent ways of selfhood). Concerning the self and morality still open research gaps exist vis-a-vis the question if different self-construals endorse variant moral domains. Also, the inclusion of self-construals into research that tackles the scope of morality by taking a closer look at parochial altruism appears lacking so far in the literature. Moreover, a reliable self-report instrument that assesses the subjective relevance of different moral domains across cultures is currently missing in the field. This research project intends to close these gaps via a series of empirical studies. At first, a reliable scale that measures the subjective relevance of several moral domains will be developed. In the realm of this goal a pilot study and a cross-cultural inquiry will be conducted. Second, a cross-cultural survey-experiment will be utilized to investigate the effect of culturally afforded self-construals on morality and variances in moral domain endorsement. Third, another yet complementary study will be conducted, which relies on an experimental design and works with priming methods. The aim of this study is to identify the causal effect of self-construal on morality. In addition, parochial altruism will be investigated in relation to moral domain endorsement and self-construal in the third study. Altogether, placed under the theoretical umbrella of a cultural-evolutionary framework this PhD-project explores “which” morality guides social cooperation in different cultural contexts and intends to integrate the self in our understanding of morality to grasp deeper insights into the human foundations of the social.

Academic Supervisors
Johannes Huinink
Ulrich Kühnen
Vivian L. Vignoles