METHODOLOGICAL ADVANCES OF THE MIME
Recent methodological advances of the MIME are primarily concerned with two major challenges. First, how can MIME researchers measure representations of moral intuitions in media content (exemplars) with high reliability and validity? If moral information in media content is context-dependent and assumed to trigger an intuitive response among individuals that differ in their sensibilities toward different types of moral information, then the application of traditional content analyses seems limited, as these approaches require a deliberate and consistent judgment from trained expert coders. Second, how can we measure intuition salience in individuals, which, again, is assumed to be inaccessible to conscious deliberations and as such difficult to measure with instruments that are based on self-reports?
Measuring the Representation of Moral Intuitions in Media Content
Early MIME researchers (Mastro et al, 2013) developed the MIME coding scheme, a codebook designed to describe the core essence of each altruistic intuition, which prompts human coders to mark the presence of a specific intuition when they see behavior motivated by that intuition. For instance, the essence of care deals with whether an act gives aid to or hinders the well-being of others in need. If Daniel Tiger picked up his friend who fell and wanted help, the act would uphold care. But if Daniel instead threw down the friend who was trying to arise, this would violate care (i.e., inflict harm). Over time, the MIME coding scheme has been expanded to identify the presence of both altruistic and egoistic intuitions, and it has been applied to areas of media content including newspaper headlines (Bowman et al., 2014), serial television (Mastro et al., 2013; Prabhu et al., 2015; Prabhu & Tamborini, 2018), children’s television (Hahn et al., 2017; Lewis & Mitchell, 2014), children’s books and movies (Tamborini, Hahn, Klebig et al., 2018), song lyrics (Halm, Tamborini, Klebig et al., 2018), and experimental text and video stimuli (e.g., Tamborini, Prabhu et al., 2016).
More recent advances in MIME content analyses have taken a different track. In six smdies, Weber et al. (2018) demonstrated that, under conditions of truly independent content coding procedures, the high reliabilities of early MIME coding schemes could not be replicated. Instead of a conventional approach using lengthy procedures that train a few people to carefiilly deliberate whether content fits predefined categories to identify the “essence” of each intuition, Weber et al. (2018) developed an online platform named the Moral Narrative Analyzer (MoNA; https://mnl.ucsb.edu/mona) and implemented a crowd-sourced procedure in which a relatively large number of coders are provided a simple overview of each of the intuitions, and then rate content presented in MoNA based on then intuitive responses to that content. Weber et al. show that this intuition-based, crowd-sourced approach to coding moral themes in media content produces acceptable inter-coder reliabilities among coders, and importantly, more valid codings of moral intuitions represented in media content.
Early moral foundations researchers attempting to extract moral intuitions from media content largely relied on the Moral Foundations Dictionary (MFD; Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009). Notably, the use of the MFD to capture the representation of moral themes in media content is limited by the fact that the original MFD is simply a subjective lexicon of virtue and vice words across the five intuitions (compiled by Graham, Haidt, & Nosek without validation). By nature, the MFD is only capable of extracting manifest moral content, and even then, only when the specific words used appear in the MFD. This is problematic considering that moral content is often inherently latent and that many words in the MFD can have moral or non-moral meanings depending on context (Weber et al., 2018). The MFD is also limited by the fact that the list of words it offers to represent each intuition is far from comprehensive. To address these shortcomings, Hopp, Cornell, Fisher, Huskey, and Weber (2018) have used the MoNA platform and collected tens of thousands of content codings among a large crowd of coders. These researchers used modern natural language processing tools and created an extended, crowd-based Moral Foundation Dictionary (eMFD). Validations of this new MFD are currently underway. The eMFD is available to the research community at https://osf.io/vw85e/.
Measuring the Affective Component of Intuition Salience: The MF-AMP
Affect misattribution procedures (AMP) have been implemented in past research to assess implicit attimdes related to moral affect (Hofmann & Baumert, 2010). Because preconscious attitudes in these areas may not attain the level of consciousness required for awareness, AMPs assess attimdes implicitly through misattribution, or attributing the effect of one stimulus as the effect of another. AMPs rely on projection, which is one form of misattribution. In this procedure, individuals mistakenly attribute the affect associated with their preconscious attimdes toward a target stimulus for the affect associated with a neutral symbol.
Because moral intuitions operate preconsciously, previous attempts to measure their salience using self-report instruments have been maned by characteristically low reliability. The moral foundations-affect misattribution (MF-AMP) procedure’s ability to assess intuition accessibility at a preconscious level was designed to address these concerns (Tamborini, Prabhu et al., 2016). The MF-AMP begins by briefly exposing people to a target word exemplifying the upholding or violation of an intuition (e.g., obedience or disrespect) before asking participants to appraise a neutral symbol (e.g., an unfamiliar Chinese logogram) as pleasant or unpleasant. The speed with which participants appraise the neutral symbol in concordance with the word prune’s affective valence (e.g., pleasant for obedience and unpleasant for disrespect) compared to the response speed for control words is used to indicate the intuition’s accessibility. This procedure has been used successfiilly to measure the temporary accessibility of intuitions in audiences after exposure to intuition-laden stimuli (Tamborini, Prabhu et al., 2016). Recently, the procedure has been updated to eliminate some of its early methodological shortcomings (Hopp et al., 2019), and include measures of the egoistic intuitions (Prabhu et al., 2014; Tamborini, Lewis et al., 2016).