Resisting Temptation for the Good of the Group: Binding Moral Values and the Moralization of Self-Control

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Abstract

When do people see self-control as a moral issue? We hypothesize that the group-focused “binding” moral values of Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Purity/degradation play a particularly important role in this moralization process. Nine studies provide support for this prediction. First, moralization of self-control goals (e.g., losing weight, saving money) is more strongly associated with endorsing binding moral values than with endorsing individualizing moral values (Care/harm, Fairness/cheating). Second, binding moral values mediate the effect of other group-focused predictors of self-control moralization, including conservatism, religiosity, and collectivism. Third, guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about binding moral values increases moralization of self-control more than guiding participants to consider morality as centrally about individualizing moral values. Fourth, we replicate our core finding that moralization of self-control is associated with binding moral values across studies differing in measures and design—whether we measure the relationship between moral and self-control language across time, the perceived moral relevance of self-control behaviors, or the moral condemnation of self-control failures. Taken together, our findings suggest that self-control moralization is primarily group-oriented and is sensitive to group-oriented cues.

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