Moral Grandstanding

Source: ZeroHedge, Nov 2019

moral grandstanding can be defined as “the use and abuse of moral talk to seek status, to promote oneself, or to boost your own brand.”

A moral grandstander is therefore a person who frequently uses public discussion of morality and politics to impress others with their moral qualities. Crucially, these individuals are primarily motivated by the desire to enhance their own status or ranking among their peers.

Across 6 studies (involving 2 pre-registrations involving nationally representative samples), 2 longitudinal designs, and over 6,000 participants, these are their core findings:

Moral grandstanders (those scoring high on the moral grandstanding survey) tend to also score high in narcissistic characteristics and also tend to report status-seeking as their fundamental social motive.

There is no relationship between moral grandstanding and political affiliation. However there is a link between moral grandstanding and political polarization: people on the far left and far right are both more likely to score higher in moral grandstanding characteristics than those who are more moderate democrats and republicans.

Moral grandstanders are more likely to report greater moral and political conflict in their daily lives (e.g., “I lost friends because of my political/moral beliefs”) and they report getting into more fights with others on social media because of their political or moral beliefs. This correlation was found even after controlling for other personality traits, and continued over the course of a one-month longitudinal study.

Grandstanders were more likely to report antagonistic behavior over time, such as attacking others online, or trying to publicly shame someone online because they held a different moral or political belief.

moral grandstanding can be fueled by either:

  1. The need to seek social status by dominating others (“When I share my moral/political beliefs, I do so to show people who disagree with me that I am better than them”)
  2. The need to seek status through being a knowledgeable and virtuous example (“I want to be on the right side of history about moral/political issues”, “If I don’t share my views, others will be less likely to learn the truth about moral/political matters”, “I often share my moral/political beliefs in the hope of inspiring people to be more passionate about their beliefs.”)

The researchers found that the dominance path to social status was much more strongly linked to antagonistic behaviors and conflict in everyday life

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