How the Moralization of Issues Grants Social Legitimacy to Act on One's Attitudes

How the Moralization of Issues Grants Social Legitimacy to Act on One's Attitudes

By
Daniel A. Effron, Dale T. Miller
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. May
2012, Vol. 38, Issue 5, Pages 690-701

Actions that do not have as their goal the advancement or protection of one’s material interests are often seen as illegitimate. Four studies suggested that moral values can legitimate action in the absence of material interest. The more participants linked sociopolitical issues to moral values, the more comfortable they felt advocating on behalf of those issues and the less confused they were by others’ advocacy (Studies 1 and 2). Crime victims were perceived as being more entitled to claim special privileges when the crime had violated their personal moral values (Studies 3 and 4). These effects were strongest when the legitimacy to act could not already be derived from one’s material interests, suggesting that moral values and material interest can represent interchangeable justifications for behavior. No support was found for the possibility that attitude strength explained these effects. The power of moralization to disinhibit action is discussed.