Exploring the psychological underpinnings of the moral mandate effect: motivated reasoning, group differentiation, or anger?

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Apr;90(4):629-43. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.4.629.


When people have strong moral convictions about outcomes, their judgments of both outcome and procedural fairness become driven more by whether outcomes support or oppose their moral mandates than by whether procedures are proper or improper (the moral mandate effect). Two studies tested 3 explanations for the moral mandate effect. In particular, people with moral mandates may (a) have a greater motivation to seek out procedural flaws when outcomes fail to support their moral point of view (the motivated reasoning hypothesis), (b) be influenced by in-group distributive biases as a result of identifying with parties that share rather than oppose their moral point of view (the group differentiation hypothesis), or (c) react with anger when outcomes are inconsistent with their moral point of view, which, in turn, colors perceptions of both outcomes and procedures (the anger hypothesis). Results support the anger hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anger*
  • Chicago
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Motivation
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychology, Social
  • Social Identification
  • Social Justice*