One hill I'm willing to die on: Moral conviction as a catalyst for advocacy on behalf of controversial health- and public-policy-related attitudes
Is Version Of
The grassroots spread of health and social movements is a highly important but largely understudied social process. Advocating on behalf of your beliefs to others violates the principles of Politeness Theory (Brown & Levinson, 1978) and therefore poses social risk. However, people do advocate for these beliefs, to a degree; as noted by Skitka (2002), people seem to select a limited number of positions to incorporate into their self-concept, choosing some to represent the self as a symbolic act. She argues that some of these attitudes most deeply ingrained and most motivating to act are those that are "moral mandates".
Within this work, I discussed this construct of morality in the context of attitude structure (e.g. Teeny & Petty, 2018), attitude strength (e.g. Skitka, Bauman, & Sargis, 2005), observed behavioral intentions and effects (e.g. Cole Wright, Cullum, & Schwab, 2008), the self (discussing implication of Skitka, 2002), and regulatory orientation (Zaal, Laar, Ståhl, Ellemers, & Derks, 2011), focusing the discussion and subsequent research on the latter two.
I then completed three empirical studies. In Study 1, I tested the factor structure of various operationalizations of morality, as well as attitude structure and strength, and their ability to predict outcomes previously associated with moral conviction. Moral conviction and moral acceptability were determined to be the most theoretically and predictively distinct conceptualizations, and evidence was found for basis being a significant interactor with morality in predicting the replicated outcomes.
In Study 2, I examined how morality interacts with perceived controversy and majority status, to elucidate the nature of morality as a counteractive force to social risk. I found that majority significantly increased the positive effect of morality on advocacy, but also found significant 2- and 3-way interactions with attitude bases.
In Study 3, I experimentally tested the effects of perceived morality on both intentions and actual advocacy behavior, manipulating the perceived regulatory orientation (i.e. risk sensitivity) and belief in the attitude as central to the self-concept. Alone, these manipulations had no significant effect. However, significant effects were found in interaction with basis.
Conclusions focused on several keys areas. First, range restriction and potential fragile effects appeared to undermine consistency in determining significant effects. I strongly suggest the attitudes research field expand its use of stimulus sampling. on the nature of morality in interaction with basis. Different conceptions of morality interacted differently with cognitive and affective basis. Future work into the effect of morality on attitude outcomes should incorporate basis as a primary variable. Secondly, morality and high affect generally increased intent to advocate, however, at maximum levels the opposite was found, suppressing advocacy not necessarily through social pressures but likely an untenable amount of dissonance or a change in perceived utility. Finally, models utilizing frame manipulations left morality accounting for no significant variance. Future work should be done to determine the relationship between these frames and morality, as a mediating relationship remains a possibility.