Unequal by malice, protesters by outrage: Agent perceptions drive moralization of, and collective action against, inequality

Carmen Cervone, Caterina Suitner, Luciana Carraro, Andrea Menini, Anne Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Economic inequality does not encounter strong protests even though individuals are generally against it. One potential explanation of this paradox is that individuals do not perceive inequality as caused by intentional agents, which, in line with the Theory of Dyadic Morality (Schein & Gray, 2018), should prevent its assessment as immoral and consequently dampen moral outrage and collective action. Across three studies, we test and confirm this hypothesis. In Studies 1 (N = 395) and 2 (N = 337), the more participants believed that inequality is human driven and caused by intentional agents, the more they moralized inequality, felt outraged and wanted to engage in collective action. This was confirmed in Study 3 (N = 243) through an experimental design. Thus, our research shows that agent perception is crucial in the moralization of economic inequality and, more broadly, that morality can be a powerful motivator and effectively mobilize people to action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • collective action
  • economic inequality
  • intentionality
  • moral outrage
  • morality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Unequal by malice, protesters by outrage: Agent perceptions drive moralization of, and collective action against, inequality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this