Moral conviction forms the foundation for strong, morally vested attitudes and beliefs (i.e., “moral mandates”) that have high action potential because they are “oughts” and “shoulds.” Although moral mandates may sometimes lead people to engage in prosocial behaviors, they can also lead people to disregard procedural safeguards. This article briefly reviews research that indicates that people become very unconcerned with how moral mandates are achieved, so long as they are achieved. In short, we find that commitments to procedural safeguards that generally protect civil society become psychologically eroded when people are pursuing a morally mandated end. Understanding the “dark side” of moral conviction may provide some insight into the motivational underpinnings of engaging in extreme acts like terrorism, as well as people's willingness to forego civil liberties in their pursuit of those who do.
Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2002