International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Morality vs. Norms: The power of moral outrage to overcome normative barriers to political action

Rachel Isabel McDonald, School of Psychology, University of Queensland; Linh Lan Phan, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Anna Nicole Cooke, School of Psychology, University o

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: School of Psychology, University of Queensland
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

Many societal injustices may be tolerated or perpetuated because of a public perception of approval for the action.  Previous research has demonstrated that people who believe their position on an issue is moral will behave in a counter-normative manner, but has not addressed the power of invoking moral outrage as a persuasive tool to overcome social norms supportive of injustice.  The present studies seek to examine scenarios in which an act of ongoing discrimination or injustice is able to be viewed as both widely approved, as well as morally objectionable.  In addition, we seek to compare the effects of moral outrage as a tool for promoting collective action in an observer context vs. an ingroup perpetrator context.  The present studies employed a 2 (moral outrage vs. morally neutral) X 2 (norm of approval vs. disapproval) design.  Of most interest was the condition in which the injustice was widely approved, and simultaneously framed as morally outrageous.  We hypothesised that under these conditions, the use of moral outrage as a persuasive tool would overcome normative barriers to political action.  Results supported the prediction that the power of moral outrage would overcome normative barriers to action, and suggest the potential of appeals to morality as a powerful persuasive tool.