What Leads to Evocation of Moral Outrage? Exploring the Role of Personal Morality

  •  Shunsuke Uehara    
  •  Tomohiro Nakagawa    
  •  Toru Tamura    


Anger is usually evoked when an individual perceives that his/her moral standard or principle has been violated.
This has been termed as “moral outrage.” However, some researchers have suggested that anger at an immoral
act is personal because increased anger was reported only when harm was undeservedly inflicted upon the self or
an in-group member even if the act was judged to be a moral violation. In this study, on the basis of the
assumption that moral outrage is a conditional emotional reaction that is evoked only in individuals high in
morality, we attempted to examine whether personal morality elicited moral outrage. Japanese participants were
asked to read a fictitious newspaper article describing a case of abduction. The abducted victim was described as
Japanese for half of the participants, and as Slovenian for the other half. Immediately after reading the article,
anger, the perception of the wrongness of the abduction, and personal morality was assessed. We found that
anger was increased only in the Japanese abductee condition, regardless of whether the level of self-reported
morality was low or high. We discuss the possibility that personal anger is an exceedingly prevalent emotion and
the question as to why no evidence of moral outrage was found.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • Issn(Print): 1918-7211
  • Issn(Onlne): 1918-722X
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: quarterly

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