Diversity of opinions is often celebrated as an opportunity to learn from one another and to improve decision-making by widening the scope of considerations informing decisions, and, on the societal level, is lauded as the foundation of liberal democracy. Yet, constructive dialogue across lines of disagreement is often lacking, especially around the more charged and contentious issues of disagreement. The goal of the current research project was to examine the proposition that biased attribution of moral motives plays an adverse role in the relation between disagreement and tolerance of ideational opponents. In particular, it was expected that people impugn the moral motives of those with dissimilar opinions, especially when the issue of contention is held as a moral conviction, and that this biased perception in turn leads to greater intolerance of such opponents. The pattern of results accrued across four studies supports this expectation. Across diverse issues of disagreement, to the extent that participants held their positions with high moral conviction, they were more likely to see their ideational opponents as less morally motivated than themselves, and this biased attribution, in turn, led to more negative attitudes and emotions toward the other, to greater distrust and desire for social distance, and less willingness to work together; all this occurring above and beyond the simultaneous mediating role of biased attribution of ability. These negative outcomes effectively obstruct the likelihood of engagement and constructive dialogue that could advance shared understanding, and ultimately individual and societal progress and well-being. As such, the pattern of results that emerged from the current research suggests that biased attribution of moral motives in the context of moral disagreement deserves greater attention in future studies of interpersonal, organizational, and intergroup relations, as well as democratic processes.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2014. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Eugene Borgida, Christopher Federico. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 207 pages.
Reifen Tagar, Michal.
Why Disagreement Obstructs Constructive Dialogue: The Role of Biased Attribution of Moral Motives.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.