Research has indicated that human morality is associated with cognitive ability. However, morality is not a unified concept but rather is a multi-faceted concept. Moral Foundation Theory suggests that human beings have at least five innate moral foundations: Care/Injury, Fairness/Deception, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sacred/Fallen. The present study aimed to investigate the associations between these moral values and cognitive ability. A large-scale cross-sectional survey was conducted online, which was completed by a total of 4863 Japanese adults (2922 females, 1935 males, and 6 “other;” Mage = 48.78, SDage = 10.93, range 20–70). Correlation and multiple regression analyses revealed that cognitive ability was positively linked to Care/Injury, Fairness/Deception, and Sacred/Fallen. Notably, the positive associations of cognitive ability with Loyalty/ Betrayal and Authority/Subversion were statistically significant only for people below the age of approximately 50. These findings indicate that although moral foundations are based on emotions and intuitions, they are substantially associated with cognitive ability. In addition, the positive direction of associations of cognitive ability with Loyalty/Betrayal and Authority/Subversion was inconsistent with previous findings in Western countries, which suggests that these associations are culture-dependent.
Human beings are social animals; we go about our everyday lives establishing social relationships. This renders it necessary for us to behave morally in society (de Waal, 1996). There are broad individual differences in moral behaviors, which can be well explained by variability in moral values. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) suggests that we inherently have five broad intuitive moral foundations (Graham et al., 2011, 2013; Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009). The five moral foundations are as follows: Care/Injury, Fairness/Deception, Loyalty/ Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sacred/Fallen. Care/Injury is represented by virtues of warm-heartedness, humaneness, and nurturance. Fairness/Deception refers to ideas of justice, rights, and impartiality. Care/Injury and Fairness/Deception are called individualizing foundations, which include all that are needed to support the individual-focused contractual approaches to society often used in enlightenment ethics and are highly associated with liberal ethics (Graham et al., 2009, 2011). Loyalty/Betrayal reflects trueness, patriotism, and self-abnegation for one’s group members. Authority/Subversion represents deference to legitimate power, authority, and respect for traditions. Sacred/Fallen denotes the abhorrence of disgusting things and contamination. The latter three foundations are referred to as binding foundations, which are linked to all that binds people together into larger groups and institutions (Graham et al., 2009, 2011). These foundations are innate and are related to moral-related emotions; MFT holds that human beings usually rely on their moral intuitions based on the five foundations in determining moral judgements (Graham et al., 2009, 2011). Although these foundations are intuitive and are related to emotion, recent research has investigated and shown the associations between the main moral foundations and cognitive ability.