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Key Words:

Moral, Rebel, Rejection, Obedience, Conformity, Self-worth

Background / Metatheory:

Throughout our lives we are faced with choices to make in difficult situations. These situations are forced upon us by others. Denial in these situations is often met with resentment by those who have complied and attraction by those who are not involved. Why would someone be disliked for doing good?

Social psychology was popularized in the past by a series of groundbreaking studies deemed unethical by today’s standards. Specifically the Milgram shock experiment and the Zimbardo prison study. Milgram showed that authority and obedience can have detrimental effects on the way average people treat someone who is clearly in need. Zimbardo provided similar observations that emphasize the way normal people treat others in situations calling for obedience and respect for authority. This theory is nestled within the same branch of social psychology as those studies. That is, research on authority, conformity, and obedience. Rejection of Moral Rebels: Resenting Those Who Do the Right Thing by Monin et al. (2008) shows that people who take a stand against a morally problematic situation are rejected by those who followed through with the problematic situation. At the same time, uninvolved observers will admire the strength of character presented by the rebel. Obedient others claim to want to preserve the experiment and respect the researcher, thus they show deference to the authority figures. Much like high-shockers in the Milgram experiment. The obedient others also conform to what is expected of them by the same researchers. This is similar to the authority context I just mentioned as well thus showing more relation to previous lines of thinking. However, the rebels in the Monin et al. study do not conform, much like the low/none-shockers in the Milgram experiment. Finally, obedience is drawn from the obedient others while it is not drawn from the rebels.

Terms & Definitions:

Scope Conditions:

  1. Involvement in problematic situation must be voluntary
  2. Morally charge topic must be binary
  3. Actors must make decision on problematic situation
  4. Actors must have knowledge of other's actions
  5. Actors must know the situation is problematic

Propositions:

  1. Moral Rebellion leads to imagined rejection
  2. Imagined Rejection leads to damaged self-worth
  3. Damaged self-worth leads to no attraction
  4. No attraction leads to rejection
  5. Moral Rebellion leads to attraction by Uninvolved observer
  6. Attraction by uninvolved observer leads to liking

Derivations:

  1. Moral rebellion leads to rejection (obedient others)
  2. Moral rebellion leads to liking (uninvolved observers)
  3. Strengthened self-worth leads to more attraction
  4. More attraction leads to liking

Evidence:

Moral rebellion has not been studied as directly as it is in this research. However, there is ample support to justify the author’s treatment of the phenomenon. The driving mechanism of the rejection of the moral rebels is imagined rejection of obedient others by the rebels themselves. This relates to self-affirmation research. Self-affirmation processes are activated when information threatens the perceived adequacy or integrity of the self and perception is restored by constant explanation, rationalization, and/or action (Monin 2007). This meshes well with the recent research. In fact, Monin et al. (2008) predict that affirming the obedient other prior to observing moral rebellion will halt any rejection of the rebel. Self-affirmation literature lends support to this research. Similarly, Tesser (1991) presents the Self-evaluation model or SEM that suggests a way to deal with the other’s threatening behavior is to distance yourself from them. This is both physical and social distance. In the case of moral rebels the rebel is deemed irresponsible, immature, or labeled as a troublemaker. The SEM is also concerned with reflection on someone else’s choice leading to evaluation of our own choices. To relate to moral rebellion research SEM suggests that outstanding performance (rebellion) of a close other can, however, cause the actor’s performance to pale by comparison and decrease self-evaluation. Even Milgram himself touched on the topic of rejection of moral rebels in his studies on obedience in the 60’s (Milgram 1963). Participants who obeyed were paired with confederates instructed to stand up against the experimenter. The participants said the rebels were “just being ridiculous” and had “lost all control of themselves.”


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