Instructions for Midterm Take-Home Exam (Due Friday, March 20th at 5:00 pm)

For the take-home midterm, you are required to submit responses to two of the following questions (details about the assignment are below): 

Provide an analysis of the current political gridlock in the U.S. based on Graham, Haidt, and Nosek’s (2009) moral foundations theory. In your essay, you may wish to point to a few specific divisive political issues and explain the particular moral foundations that underlie the partisan divide. Additionally, you may discuss ways in which moral foundations theory could be used to overcome gridlock and to facilitate more effective communication between individuals of opposing ideologies.

How might it be beneficial or functional to endorse the kind of moral relativism that is observed in Sarkissian et al. (2011)? Specifically, why might it make sense for individuals to view the moral views of their own ingroup as real, objective, or factual, but to be less strict about the moral beliefs about culturally or ethnically distant others? 

In light of the specific social deficits mentioned in our readings on psychopathy, how might a psychopath behave if he or she were exposed to the manipulations detailed in Mazar et al. (2008)? In other words, what would the results of the cheating data look like if you compared a group of psychopaths to a group of non-psychopathic controls? 

Compare and contrast the psychological and biological conceptions of altruism, and explain why the distinction is important. It will likely be helpful to use specific examples to help distinguish the two kinds, and/or to explain it in a way that any fairly intelligent non-academic might understand it. 


  • Your responses are due by March 20th at 5:00 pm.  You can submit these earlier, but given that you have a week, no late responses will be acceptedBecause this is a take-home examination, there are no opportunities for a "make-up" exam, and no exceptions to this policy. If for some reason the submission form is acting glitchy for you and the deadline is close, it is your responsibility to email the instructor or the TAs immediately to explain the problem. 
  • Each response should be no more than two pages of double-spaced text (with normal font sizes and one-inch margins). You must submit each response as a separate document in the form provided below in .txt, .rtf, or .doc/.docx format. 
  • You are not required to do research outside of the articles that were assigned and the content of the class discussion. You can write a perfect essay without reference to anything other than that. 
  • If you do wish to cite external sources, use APA style to do so in the text and place the references at the end of your essay. (One easy way to do this is to find the article you wish to reference on, and to use the "cite" feature, then cut-and-paste the APA style version. And APA style is easily found with a google search, so no need to email us to ask about this part!)
  • Avoid the use of long quotes. Or even any direct quotes. Paraphrase when you can--it's better writing, but if you don't believe me just believe that excessive use of quotes will likely mean a lower grade. 
  • What we are looking for in your answers is critical thinking about the topics. You can be creative, and even playful with your ideas. I encourage you to make connections between the readings that may not be obvious. A good response will defend any empirical claims with an appeal to actual data from our readings, or from a well-cited journal article that you've actually read. So creativity and informed speculation is fine, but irresponsible conjecture with no appeal to well-reasoned argument or to any real science (e.g., "it should be obvious that psychopaths are simply evil people") will be treated as gibberish and graded accordingly!
  • Each essay will be graded out of 25 points, for a total of 50 points for both. 
  • You are responsible for knowing and abiding by Cornell's code of academic integrity (  Plagiarism of any sort will not be tolerated. The TAs or I will submit your essays through the turnitin system if we have any suspicion that the words you submitted are not your own. Plus, in a course on moral psychology such behavior is extra horrible, right? 
  • We will aim to have your essays graded within one week of submission.
  • Please direct any questions about the assignment to one of your TAs in office hours or via email. 
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