When an issue becomes a lens : people who moralize an issue view their social world in terms of that issue

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How does moralizing an issue change the way people perceive and relate to each other around that issue? Across seven studies, I demonstrate converging evidence that people who moralize an issue come to view their social worlds through the lens of that issue—in other words, they are more strongly schematic for the issue. I show that people who moralize an issue report stronger schemas, based on an established measure, as well as a greater desire for social distance from dissimilar others (Study 1), and that moralization is associated with a desire for social distance even for a disagreement over an optical illusion with no moral content (Study 2). When people imbue an issue with moral weight, they believe that they see the objective truth—in other words, they show increased naïve realism—and hence they dismiss dissimilar others as unintelligent, uninformed, and immoral (Studies 3-4). The stronger meaning they attach to where others stand helps them remember this information: in a memory task, participants who moralized an issue were better able to remember strangers' positions on that issue (Study 5). This increased awareness does not lead to increased confidence, however (Studies 5-6), in part because people avoid openly discussing moralized issues, particularly in relatively distant relationships (Study 6). In turn, people may avoid these discussions in part because they feel uneasy about their prejudice against dissimilar others: contrary to prior research, I find that people believe that they are more prejudiced against morally dissimilar others than they ought to be (Study 7). Taken together, these findings help to explain how and why moral disagreements create deep and lasting divides.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2015
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Kreps, Tamar A
Associated with Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
Primary advisor Monin, Benoît, 1972-
Thesis advisor Monin, Benoît, 1972-
Thesis advisor Halevy, Nir, 1979-
Thesis advisor Miller, Dale T
Advisor Halevy, Nir, 1979-
Advisor Miller, Dale T


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Tamar A. Kreps.
Note Submitted to the Graduate School of Business.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2015.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2015 by Tamar Kreps
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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