Dr Oliver Scott Curry is Research Director for Kindlab, at kindness.org. He is also a Research Affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, and a Research Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, at the London School of Economics. He received his PhD from LSE in 2005.
Oliver’s academic research investigates the nature, content and structure of human morality. He tackles such questions as: What is morality? How did morality evolve? What psychological mechanisms underpin moral judgments? How are moral values best measured? And how does morality vary across cultures? To answer these questions, he employs a range of techniques from philosophy, experimental and social psychology and comparative anthropology.
His work argues that morality is best understood as a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. This theory of ‘morality and cooperation’ uses evolutionary game theory to identify distinct problems of cooperation and their solutions; and it predicts that rules regarding cooperative behaviour – such as caring for family, helping one’s group, reciprocating favours, being brave, deferring to superiors, dividing disputed resources, and respecting property – form the basis of all human morality.
Oliver has tested this theory of ‘morality as cooperation’ by means of a comprehensive cross-cultural survey of moral values. Analysis of the ethnographic records of 60 societies found that, contrary to widely-held moral relativist views, these types of cooperative behaviour were indeed considered morally good wherever they arose, in all cultures.
Oliver has also used ‘morality as cooperation’ to develop a new self-report measure of moral values – the Morality as Cooperation Questionnaire (MAC-Q). He is currently using this new questionnaire to investigate the heritability of moral values, and how they vary cross-culturally.