Author Contribution Statement: E. U. and D. D. developed the research hypothesis and theoretical framing of the paper. L. Z. designed the studies and collected and analyzed the data. The introduction and discussion of the paper were written by E. U. and the methods and results by L. Z., with D. D. providing guidance on the research studies and detailed comments on the overall manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the paper for submission.
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When actions speak volumes: The role of inferences about moral character in outrage over racial bigotry
Article first published online: 3 OCT 2013
Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
European Journal of Social Psychology
Volume 44, Issue 1, pages 23–29, February 2014
How to Cite
Uhlmann, E. L., Zhu, L. [. and Diermeier, D. (2014), When actions speak volumes: The role of inferences about moral character in outrage over racial bigotry. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 44: 23–29. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.1987
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 3 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 6 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 25 AUG 2013
- Manuscript Received: 17 NOV 2012
- Person-centered moral judgments;
- act-person dissociations;
- informational value;
- racial slurs
Inferences about moral character may often drive outrage over symbolic acts of racial bigotry. Study 1 demonstrates a theoretically predicted dissociation between moral evaluations of an act and the person who carries out the act. Although Americans regarded the private use of a racial slur as a less blameworthy act than physical assault, use of a slur was perceived as a clearer indicator of poor moral character. Study 2 highlights the dynamic interplay between moral judgments of acts and persons, demonstrating that first making person judgments can bias subsequent act judgments. Privately defacing a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. led to greater moral condemnation of the agent than of the act itself only when the behavior was evaluated first. When Americans first made character judgments, symbolically defacing a picture of the civil rights leader was significantly more likely to be perceived as an immoral act. These studies support a person-centered account of outrage over bigotry and demonstrate that moral evaluations of acts and persons converge and diverge under theoretically meaningful circumstances. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.