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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Attitude Moralization Within Polarized Contexts: An Emotional Value-Protective Response to Dyadic Harm Cues

D’Amore, C., van Zomeren, M., & Koudenburg, N. 
(2021). Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


Polarization about societal issues involves attitudinal conflict, but we know little about how such conflict transforms into moral conflict. Integrating insights on polarization and psychological value protection, we propose a model that predicts when and how attitude moralization (i.e., when attitudes become grounded in core values) may be triggered and develops within polarized contexts. We tested this model in three experiments (total N = 823) in the context of the polarized Zwarte Piet (blackface) debate in the Netherlands. Specifically, we tested the hypotheses that (a) situational cues to dyadic harm in this context (i.e., an outgroup that is perceived as intentionally inflicting harm onto innocent victims) trigger individuals to moralize their relevant attitude, because of (b) emotional value-protective responses. Findings supported both hypotheses across different regional contexts, suggesting that attitude moralization can emerge within polarized contexts when people are exposed to actions by attitudinal opponents perceived as causing dyadic harm.

From the Discussion Section

Harm as dyadic

First, our findings suggest that a focus on dyadic harm may be key to understanding triggers for attitude moralization within polarized contexts. Although most researchers have assigned the general concept of harm a central role in theory on moral judgments (e.g., Kohlberg, 1969; Piaget, 1965; Rozin & Singh, 1999; Turiel, 2006), no previous research on moralization has specifically focused on the dyadic element of harm within polarized contexts. The few empirical studies that examined the role of harm as a general (utilitarian) predictor in the process of attitude moralization about a polarized issue (Brandt et al., 2015; Wisneski & Skitka, 2017) did not find clear support for its predictive power. Interestingly, our consistent finding that strong cues to dyadic harm served as a situational trigger for attitude moralization adds to this literature by suggesting that for understanding moralization triggers within polarized contexts, it is important to understand when people perceive harm as more dyadic (in this case, when a concrete outgroup is perceived as intentionally harming innocent [ingroup] victims). Indeed, we suggest that, in polarized contexts at least, harm could trigger attitude moralization when it is perceived to be dyadic—that is, intentionally harmful. This implies that researchers interested in predicting attitude moralization within polarized contexts should consider conceptualizing and measuring harm as dyadic.