The acceptability of arguments in favour of and against the Iraq
This paper reports
on research based on an experimental questionnaire designed using the
logic and the basic structure of the Moral Judgment Test (MJT) by Lind
(1982). The study aims at understanding how respondents' acceptance of
political arguments may have contributed to the lack of international
support for the Iraq war and/or to the failure to prevent a preemptive
It examines factors, which respondents may have relied on in their acceptance
of the arguments. The instrument consisted of three components: (1) A
brief vignette on the declared beginning (March 19, 2003) and ending (May
1, 2003) of major operations in Iraq. (2) Respondents' own agreement with
the need for the war. (3) Twelve arguments from political speeches: Six
arguments by Bush and Blair "in favor of" (pro,) and six arguments
by Chirac and Schroeder "against" (con) the need for the Iraq
war. We scored each argument using Kohlberg's (1984) stage theory and
Commons' Hierarchical Complexity Scoring System (HCSS) (Commons et al.,
2004), which identifies hierarchical features in the structure. Using
Kempf's (2003) Cognitive Escalation and De-Escalation Model (CEDM) we
scored each argument sentence for details.
Our sample consists of (N = 397) respondents of which were 56.4% women,
24.2% men, and 19.4% did not specify. The largest groups consisted of
71% Germans, 37.2% Catholics, 74.3% between the ages of 18-20 with high
school education. Another group consisted of 8.6% Americans with a broader
spectrum in age and higher educational level.
Using 7 point Likert scales, respondents rated whether they would have
rejected or accepted the main point of each argument, whether the main
point of the argument seemed illusory or realistic, and whether the emotion
evoked by the argument was destructive or constructive.
The analysis of the data aimed at determining which within subject and
between subject design factors were relevant in predicting respondents'
acceptance of arguments and the probability that these factors were significant
and valid. We performed tests for Covariance Parameter Estimates for Hierarchical
Linear Models proposed by Bryk & Raudenbush (1992) with estimation
of Maximum Likelihood (ML), by applying the equation (1 - model covariance/intercept
covariance). Applying the standard criteria by Cohen & Cohen (1983),
we consider a model as relevant, if it accounts for more than 10% of the
proportion reduction in error (PRE).
Mixed linear model tests identified relevant predictors with chi square
significance of p < .001. Design factors, which were relevant included:
"Was the argument realistic? Did it evoke constructive feelings?
Did argument details offer beneficent considerations?".
On the author:
Juan LaLlave, Researcher, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Mental
Health Center, The Program in Psychiatry and the Law; Doktorand, University
Konstanz, Germany, Peace and political Psychology. His discipline includes
Clinical and Forensic Psychology. The focus of his research interests
includes: The role and boundaries in clinical and forensic practice; the
application of stage theory in adult and moral development; the contribution
of role, attitude, emotions and reasoning in rational decision-making
and cumulative prospect theory; the role of moral judgment in understanding
terrorism and the Iraq war toward peace-oriented-constructive-transformation
of journalism and the media.
Psychologie, Universität Konstanz, D-78457 Konstanz. eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org