Lessons from Morality-Based Social Identity: The Power of Outgroup “Hate,” Not Just Ingroup “Love”

Abstract

Based on the unique features of morality, we suggest that group memberships rooted in moral convictions are a special classification of inherently threatening social groups in which outgroup “hate” naturally occurs with ingroup “love.” Three studies explored emotional reactions to ingroups and outgroups by individuals whose group memberships were either morality-based or non-morality-based. Results of each study indicated that individuals in morality-based groups reported less positive ingroup emotions and more negative outgroup emotions and threat than did those in non-morality-based groups. Additionally, strength of morality-based identification was predicted by attitudes about both the ingroup and the outgroup, but only attitudes about the ingroup predicted identification for non-morality-based groups. Together, these studies suggest a necessary interdependence of ingroup positivity and outgroup negativity for social groups based in morality. We conclude that negative outgroup-related emotions may be just as important as positive ingroup-related emotions for social identification based on moral convictions.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Males and females demonstrated similar levels of positivity toward N-MB ingroups (Ms = 6.60 and 7.27, respectively) and MB ingroups (Ms = 5.29 and 5.76, respectively). Outgroup negativity was also similar for males and females for N-MB outgroups (Ms = 2.27 and 2.10) and MB outgroups (Ms = 2.74 and 3.46). None of the differences between males and females were significant.

  2. 2.

    Threat significantly mediated the group difference for both majority and minority groups. In a moderated mediation analysis, status had no effect on the group difference for threat, b = −.08, SE = 0.72, p = .91, nor did it moderate the relationship between threat and outgroup negativity, b = 0.13, SE = 0.13, p = .33. The confidence intervals for the indirect effect indicated significant mediation for both majority (95 % CI [0.72, 2.24]) and minority groups (95 % CI [0.54, 1.97]).

  3. 3.

    This analysis was presented separately by group type to aid interpretation. We also conducted a similar analysis using moderated regression to test differences in the relationships across groups. We found a significant interaction between the outgroup feeling thermometer and the group type, b = −0.029, SE = 0.14, p = .038. The interaction with the ingroup feeling thermometer and the group type was marginally significant, b = −0.037, SE = 0.021, p = .086. Though not expected, this trend suggests ingroup feelings are less related to identification for MB groups compared to N-MB groups when controlling for feelings about the outgroup.

  4. 4.

    Political liberals and conservatives were combined because there were not enough conservatives in the sample to test separately. The individual means suggested the same pattern of results for both liberals and conservatives. On ingroup positivity, both liberals (M = 4.25) and conservatives (M = 3.47) were lower than the student group (M = 5.32). On outgroup negativity, both liberals (M = 3.16) and conservatives (M = 2.07) were higher than the student group (M = 1.14). On perceived threat, liberals (M = 0.91) and conservatives (M = 0.60) both felt greater threat than did students (M = −2.45).

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Correspondence to Michael T. Parker.

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This work was supported by NSF grant BCS-1053139 to the second author.

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Parker, M.T., Janoff-Bulman, R. Lessons from Morality-Based Social Identity: The Power of Outgroup “Hate,” Not Just Ingroup “Love”. Soc Just Res 26, 81–96 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-012-0175-6

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Keywords

  • Morality
  • Social identity
  • Intergroup relations