Research Article: Development and validation of the Japanese Moral Foundations Dictionary

Date Published: March 25, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Akiko Matsuo, Kazutoshi Sasahara, Yasuhiro Taguchi, Minoru Karasawa, Oliver Gruebner.


The Moral Foundations Dictionary (MFD) is a useful tool for applying the conceptual framework developed in Moral Foundations Theory and quantifying the moral meanings implicated in the linguistic information people convey. However, the applicability of the MFD is limited because it is available only in English. Translated versions of the MFD are therefore needed to study morality across various cultures, including non-Western cultures. The contribution of this paper is two-fold. We developed the first Japanese version of the MFD (referred to as the J-MFD) using a semi-automated method—this serves as a reference when translating the MFD into other languages. We next tested the validity of the J-MFD by analyzing open-ended written texts about the situations that Japanese participants thought followed and violated the five moral foundations. We found that the J-MFD correctly categorized the Japanese participants’ descriptions into the corresponding moral foundations, and that the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) scores correlated with the frequency of situations, of total words, and of J-MFD words in the participants’ descriptions for the Harm and Fairness foundations. The J-MFD can be used to study morality unique to the Japanese and also multicultural comparisons in moral behavior.

Partial Text

Currently, one of the most active research areas in social and behavioral sciences pertains to how and on what grounds ordinary people form moral judgments. A central message from this flourishing body of research is that people quickly decide whether a particular act is morally right or wrong; however, it takes them a relatively long time to provide a “why” explanation for their judgment [1]. This intuitionist model of moral judgment has produced voluminous empirical research as well as a comprehensive theoretical framework—this is now formulated as the Moral Foundations Theory (MFT).

This work proposed a semi-automated method for translating the Moral Foundations Dictionary (MFD) and developed and validated its Japanese version (J-MFD). The J-MFD will be updated with revision via collaborative efforts by its users ( Our method is beneficial for developing other language versions of the MFD, which are needed because multilingual versions allow us to test the Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) in different languages and compare diverse cultures using the same basis of the MFT [1, 18].




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