Passion and moral disengagement: Different pathways to political activism

Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Birga M. Schumpe, Noëmie Nociti, Manuel Moyano, Stéphane Dandeneau, Pier Eric Chamberland, Robert J. Vallerand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Four studies examined the relationship between motivational imbalance―the degree to which a goal dominates other goals―and political activism. Method: Based on the dualistic model of passion (Vallerand, 2015) and recent theorizing on violent extremism (Kruglanski, Jasko, Chernikova, Dugas, & Webber, 2017), we predicted that obsessive passion (OP), which facilitates alternative goal suppression, would increase support for violent political behaviors. In contrast, we predicted that harmonious passion (HP), which facilitates the integration of multiple goal pursuits, would increase support for peaceful political behaviors. Results: Study 1a demonstrated that OP for environmentalism was positively associated with moral disengagement, which in turn predicted violent behaviors. HP was positively associated with peaceful behaviors. Political activism among Democrats yielded similar findings in Study 1b. Study 2 replicated Studies 1a–1b using an implicit measure of moral disengagement. Study 3 replicated Studies 1–2 by demonstrating that experimentally inducing a harmonious (vs. obsessive) passion mindset indirectly reduced violent behaviors through the attenuation of moral disengagement while directly promoting peaceful behaviors. Study 4 conceptually replicated Studies 1–3 by experimentally manipulating moral disengagement. Conclusions: These results offer insights into the workings of radicalization and suggest theory-driven methods of reducing political violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1249
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • moral disengagement
  • passion
  • political activism
  • radicalization
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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