GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS, PERSONAL VALUES, PERCEPTIONS OF MORALITY, AND THE EFFECTS OF SELF-CONFRONTATION ON THE STABILITY OF PERSONAL VALUES
Macmillan, Craig Dublin
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of moral perceptions in activating personal values. This study attempted to address three questions: (a) Does perceiving a moral component to biotechnology activate values? (b) Does a person's value orientation strengthen when their attitudes toward biotechnology are in alignment with their existing values orientation? and (c) Does a person's value orientation weaken when their attitudes toward biotechnology are in conflict with their existing values orientation?To answer these questions, an experiment was conducted where 77 undergraduate students completed a survey instrument. All subjects responded to the ten items of the Short Schwartz Value Survey (SSVS), items measuring basic science knowledge, and items about demographic variables. The treatment group responded to an additional set of items about biotechnology. Subjects in the treatment group were classified according to whether they believe decisions about biotechnology should be made primarily based on risks and benefits (Utility group) or based primarily on ethical or moral considerations (Morality group) for analysis. All subjects returned two weeks later and responded to only the ten items of the SSVS.The results of the experiment showed that subjects in the Morality group gave more importance to the value of "Power" and grew stronger on the value dimension of Self-Transcendence when retested. These subjects were more religious than subjects in either the Utility group or the control group. Subjects in the Utility and Control groups did not show statistically significant changes in their values or values orientations. Although there was a statistically significant change in the value of "Power" and on the value dimension of Self-Transcendence for the Morality group, this change was not reflected in changes in other values or the subject's values orientation overall.The findings in this study did not show the patterns of change predicted by Schwartz's Value Theory. Additionally, no associations were found between values and of the independent variables.The usefulness of values as a predictive or explanatory concept in sociological research is challenged by the results of this experiment, at least as conceptualized in Schwartz's Value Theory.