Linda Skitka, PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois at Chicago
The Social and Political Implications of Moral Conviction
Scholars often assume that some issues globally evoke moral reactions, whether these issues are presented as moral dilemmas (e.g., trolley problems) or as controversial issues of the day (e.g., the legal status of abortion). There is considerable individual variation, however, in the degree that people report that their position on specific issues reflects their core moral convictions. Moreover, variance in moral conviction has important social and political consequences, such as predicting increased political engagement (voting, willingness to engage in activism), inoculation against the usual pressures to obey authorities and the law, and greater acceptance of violent solutions to conflict surrounding issues people see in moral terms. The normative implications of these and other findings are both reassuring (moral convictions can protect against obedience to potentially malevolent authorities) and terrifying (moral convictions are associated with rejection of the rule of law, and can provide a motivational foundation for violent protest). Implications and directions for future research will be discussed.