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When moral entitlement leads to immoral acts / Bonny Ruth Brown

Publication | Library Call Number: HV6322.7 .B765 2000

Genocide is a problem that social psychologists should study because we have a unique perspective on understanding the social situations that might give rise to the phenomenon, and because this extreme form of behavior is a test for the universality and adequacy of our theories of human motivation. If we look across incidents of genocide, we see a common pattern of moral entitlement and moral imperative used as justification for the most brutal behavior. Moral outrage, it is argued here, is needed to explain the irrational cost/benefit analysis of such behavior for the general public who support it. In this paper, six studies test whether moral superiority leads to an openness to public policies that limit the rights of an outgroup, and may serve as precursors to group massacres. It was found that when subjects were told they were more moral than others, they were more likely to endorse policies that differentially restrict the rights of target groups that had been portrayed in a negative way by propaganda offered in the study. This moral superiority effect provides support for a new view of genocide and atrocities—that they are often not a result of moral disengagement or animal instincts, but rather the result of moral outrage and subsequent disengagement or animal instincts, but rather the result of moral outrage and subsequent moral responsibility to protect one's own group and punish one's enemies.

Brown, Bonny Ruth.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 99-104)
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Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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