CogSci Colloquium Talk:
Moral Cognition for the Greater Good: Boosting Effective Altruism and Reducing Political Animosity

Prof. Joshua Greene

Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Title: Moral Cognition for the Greater Good: Boosting Effective Altruism and Reducing Political Animosity
Date: Wednesday, 28th September 2022
Time: 07:00 pm (IST)
Meeting Link:
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The interdisciplinary field of moral cognition has produced a wealth of new theory since the turn of the millennium, but it’s rarely aimed directly at solving social problems. Here I’ll present two new projects focused on real-world impact. The first addresses global poverty and health by encouraging people to support the world’s most effective charities. These charities are hundreds of times more effective than typical charities, enabling an ordinary donor to save someone’s life or improve the health of hundreds of people. A series of experiments led to the creation of, which incentivizes donors to make bundled donations supporting both a personal favorite charity and a highly effective charity. Since launching in late 2020, it’s raised over 1.8 million USD and has been entirely self-sustaining. The second project aims to reduce political animosity using a scalable online quiz game (“RedBrain BlueBrain”). Americans from opposing political parties (Republicans and Democrats) play as partners and succeed by reaching mutually rewarding compromises. Two pre-registered experiments with over 1,800 participants show that an hour of game play can produce warmer attitudes toward the political out-group, with effects (assessed with self-report and economic decisions) lasting up to four months. These two projects address different problems but are grounded in the same empirically informed conception of human nature: People are reciprocal cooperators, driven by emotions that limit their scope of moral concern, but capable of moral expansion through rationally structured opportunities and experiences.

About the Speaker
Prof. Joshua D. Greene is Professor of Psychology and a member of the Center for Brain Science faculty at Harvard University. He studied philosophy at Harvard, completed his Ph.D. from Princeton, and later trained as a postdoctoral researcher in the Neuroscience of Cognitive Control Lab and at the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behavior, which is now the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

Much of his research has focused on the psychology and neuroscience of moral judgment. More recent work studies critical features of individual and collective intelligence. His current behavioral research examines strategies for improved social decision-making and the alleviation of intergroup conflict. Other interests include effective altruism and the social implications of advancing artificial intelligence.

Prof. Greene’s honors include the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and Harvard’s Roslyn Abramson Award for teaching. He is also the author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them.