Boosting Public Discourse: Towards a Targeted, Evidence-Based Strategy to Improve Moral Reasoning

The public discourses on Covid-19 during the pandemic years have highlighted the importance of a common understanding of key moral terms such as ‘autonomy’,  ‘solidarity, or ‘proportionality’ for a successful communication between autorities, the media, or the health system, and the general public. With this project we aim at contributing to a better understanding of how public discourse may succeed due to an unreflective use of moral key terms, and develop a strategy for improving readiness and competency to participate in public discourse. Specifically, we will analyze and map how moral key terms are used and comprehended in press releases from the government, media outlets, social media, for example. We will then identify common conceptual and argumentative pitfalls regarding the use of moral key terms in public discourses, and, based on this analysis, develop and pilot-test a simple game for adolescents that empowers users to reflect on their understanding of moral key terms and to train their clear and consistent use in moral arguments. Empowering citizens, particularly the young generation, to engage constructively in high-quality public discourses will facilitate the search for the best actions to take in times of crisis, increase the democratic legitimation of measures and strengthen societal resilience and cohesion.

Public Health


Sonja Merten

Prof. Sonja Merten, MD, PD, PhD, MPH
Head of Unit


Project Facts