Trystan Loustau: Moral Self-Injury and Virtual Suicidal Behavior

Trystan Loustau is a 2020 Stephen and Ina McNichols grant winner who is majoring in Pyschology. Her IDEA Grant project is tentatively titled “Moral Self-Injury and Virtual Suicidal Behavior”. Trystan’s faculty mentor is Prof. Paul Conway in the Department of Psychology.

­­­­My IDEA Grant Project aims to investigate how people’s moral minds are operating during the COIVD-19 outbreak. Dyadic Morality Theory states that we typecast others along two dimensions: agency, the capacity to intend and control our actions, and patiency, the capacity to feel. According to the theory, in every moral scenario, we perceive other people as either moral agents—those who benefit or do harm to others—or moral patients—those who receive and experience the actions of others. I am curious as to how people are morally typecasting others in the context of ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, I am examining moral typecasting behaviors toward different racial groups. Scientific study on the behavioral immune system suggests that, when our awareness of potential pathogens (e.g. COVID-19) are heightened, our bodies and minds motivate us to separate and disassociate ourselves from those who, in our minds, pose a pathogenic risk. For instance, if people believe that Asians are at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus than Caucasians, they may be motivated to disassociate themselves from Asians. It is possible that these mechanisms could be associated with certain moral typecasting behaviors. This is what I would like to discover in my study.

 Toward that effort, I have finalized my study design and all of my study materials, including my informed consent form, study questionnaire, debriefing form, participant recruitment document, and study protocol. I have also applied for and been granted ethical approval from the FSU IRB. I am now prepared to enter the data collection phase of my study. After I make a few final adjustments to my study Qualtrics with all of the appropriate study materials and publish the participant recruitment document, data collection may begin. My participants will include American adults and will be recruited from the Amazon Mechanical Turk system.

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