Legitimacy to Act

Legitimacy to Act

Recently in the MMPL’s weekly journal discussion, we read a publication by Daniel Effron and Dale Miller (2012) about the moralization of certain issues. According to this article, moralization occurs when people link moral values to social issues, like abortion. When we moralize a social issue, it gives us the legitimacy or freedom to act on attitudes that we have no material stake in. In other words, moralization allows people to feel entitled to speak up or take action, instead of feeling like it just isn’t their place. For example, many heterosexual individuals advocate for same-sex marriage, even though they have no material stake in same-sex marriage. By employing moralization to the issue, they are establishing “psychological standing”, which validates their attitudes and allows them to act. Any issue that is seen to violate a moral value causes symbolic harm, and entitles anyone to act – regardless of material stake in the issue.

Throughout four empirical studies, the authors conclude that when individuals have little material stake in an issue, having a moral stake can provide psychological standing and reduce inhibition to act on one’s attitudes. This paper provided us with an interesting insight into peoples’ motivations to act for a cause and showed how social issues are given more weight when seen through moral lens.

Here is a link to read the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22337765

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