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    Moral Principles



    Summary: Evaluating others if they stand up for their moral convictions, and evaluating ourselves if we don’t stand up.

    Source : Social Justice Research.

    Moral principles develop along with our development, as we grow up, we simultaneously gain moral maturity. However, it should not be ignored that acting on one’s moral principles is not always easy.

    As Kohlberg had also suggested in this theory of moral development, the upholding of one’s moral beliefs might sometimes run counter to one’s social environment or situational demands. It can thereby frequently cause people to stick to remaining silent on their convictions. In Spite of this, at the same time, some people are found to show the moral courage of speaking out. How do people evaluate those who decide to stand up, and how does this standing up affect their self-evaluations?

    Two experimental studies that were conducted by the psychologist of Leiden University, with participants 207 and 204 respectively, the researchers investigated both these types of evaluations. The studies have come to reveal that people who have failed to uphold their moral beliefs often still enjoyed the positive evaluations of others who have successfully shown moral courage.

    To be more specific, pro-gay participants who went along with writing an anti-gay essay which denounced equal rights for sexual minorities had positive evaluations of another person who although spoke up but refused to do this task. This failure in displaying moral courage had negative consequences on the participants’ self-concepts.

    The first experiment revealed that pro-gay participants’ positive self-concepts was considerably lowered after writing an anti-gay essay with respect to writing a pro-gay essay. The second experiment found that participants’ positive self-concepts were not only being lowered when they were being confronted with morally courageous behavior, but their own failure to uphold their own moral beliefs was so distressing that it was visible to the experimenter.

    Published: Social Justice Research.

    Contact: Florien M. Cramwinckel, Utrecht University.

    Details: Image source Istock


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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