Mortal Morality: How Threat and Partisanship Influence Moral Judgment

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Charles Scott Bell (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Todd Hartman

Abstract: According to Moral Foundations Theory (MFT), ideologues’ moral judgments fundamentally diverge. Liberals resonate more with individual appeals (to issues of harm or fairness), while conservatives are more responsive to plights of the in-group. Extant literature, however, has produced mixed evidence for the role emotion plays in skewing partisan morality. Terror management theorists, for example, find that threatened ideologues entrench themselves in their own worldviews, while motivated social cognition theorists argue that, when threatened, ideologues’ policy preferences shift right. In the present research, I attempt to unite each approach with a laboratory-controlled experiment (N=142). Using answers to moral relevance items as a key dependent variable, I find no statistical differences between how threatened liberals and conservatives evaluate group appeals. Their threatened preferences, however, diverge along individual dimensions, suggesting that liberal and conservative differences may relate more to emotion (and threat) than moral differences.

Additional Information

Bell, C.S. (2012). Mortal Morality: How Threat and Partisanship Influence Moral Judgment. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2012
Moral foundations, Mortality salience, Terror management, Threat, Ideology

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