Moralization as Legitimization for Ostracism

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Moralization refers to a widely used strategy aiming to persuade others to change their attitudes and behaviors concerning an issue. Lay people and scholars typically share the belief that emphasizing the moral core of an issue stimulates those addressed by a persuasive attempt to change their attitudes and behaviors in the desired way. Unfortunately, however, such moralization may result in severe and strong negative consequences that evoke damaging intergroup dynamics which will likely undermine social cohesion. This chapter uncovers the processes by which moralized persuasion is turned into a powerful legitimization for ostracism. These processes unfold over the course of four stages. First, moralized persuasion evokes new moral norms in society. Second, these new moral norms lead to a rigid categorization of the social environment into morally good and morally bad people. Third, this categorization forms the basis by which people who deviate from these moral norms are more easily stigmatized, excluded, and discriminated against. Fourth, the intergroup dynamics flowing from moralization make ostracism in all social agents involved more likely: Governments and institutions, often the social agents advocating new moral norms, are more likely to ostracize those deviating from the moral norm by means of policy. Similarly, citizens conforming to the moral norm will likely ostracize those deviating from the moral norm through stigmatization and discrimination. In turn, citizens deviating from the moral norm are more likely to ostracize those who conform to the moral norm so as to manage threat to their moral image. Taken together, the predominant take-home message of the present chapter is that moralization can unfold a pervasive, negative impact on social cohesion, and can undermine society’s capability to attain important societal goals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Directions in Ostracism, Social Exclusion and Rejection Research and Rejection Research.
EditorsSelma Rudert, Rainer Greifeneder, Kip Williams
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351255912
ISBN (Print)9780815368144
Publication statusPublished - 30-Apr-2019

Publication series

NameCurrent Issues in Social Psychology
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group


  • moralization
  • ostracism
  • moral image
  • defensiveness
  • social cohesion
  • discrimination

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