Social Justice Research

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 98–116 | Cite as

When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize

  • Jonathan HaidtEmail author
  • Jesse Graham

Researchers in moral psychology and social justice have agreed that morality is about matters of harm, rights, and justice. On this definition of morality, conservative opposition to social justice programs appears to be immoral, and has been explained as a product of various non-moral processes such as system justification or social dominance orientation. In this article we argue that, from an anthropological perspective, the moral domain is usually much broader, encompassing many more aspects of social life and valuing institutions as much or more than individuals. We present theoretical and empirical reasons for believing that there are five psychological systems that provide the foundations for the world’s many moralities. The five foundations are psychological preparations for detecting and reacting emotionally to issues related to harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Political liberals have moral intuitions primarily based upon the first two foundations, and therefore misunderstand the moral motivations of political conservatives, who generally rely upon all five foundations.


Social Justice Moral Judgment Foundation Theory Moral Emotion Moral Concern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Brian Nosek, Stacey Sinclair, and Kees van den Bos for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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