Striving to protect friends and family or holding everyone accountable: Moral expansiveness explains the difference between conservatives and liberals

  • Reina TakamatsuEmail author


The current research aimed to explain how conservatives and liberals differ in moral expansiveness, which is the extent to which an individual ascribes moral status to others. Using two measures of moral expansiveness, we demonstrated that both conservatives and liberals give moral regard to in-groups (e.g., friends, family, co-workers), but liberals tend to show more concern for out-groups (e.g., foreign citizen, people with different religious beliefs, members of LGBTI community) than conservatives do. Conservatives reserve their moral concern for friends and family, whereas liberals have no moral boundaries between people. In policy-making, conservatives and liberals disagree when their focuses of moral consideration do not match. We discuss that conflicts between the two can be explained by expansiveness of moral regard for out-groups. The results explain the relationship between political orientation and moral expansiveness and the way an individual includes others in the circle of moral regard.


Moral expansiveness Political orientation Attitudes toward out-groups 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

There is no potential conflict of interest pertaining to this submission to Current Psychology.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

12144_2020_615_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 32 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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