JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, vol.117, no.2, pp.310-337, 2019 (SSCI)
Building on Rai and Fiske's (2011) Relationship Regulation Theory, we argue that violation of relational motives will predict the perception of the moral wrongness of moral transgressions better than violation of harmlessness or purity. We also argue that "metarelational threat" plays an important role in determining the degree of moral wrongness of a particular act. To test our propositions, we conducted 6 studies, 3 with Turkish and American respondents. Scenarios where a relational component was present were perceived as more morally relevant (Study 1, N = 199). We found that relational motive violations predicted perceived moral wrongness better than violations of harmlessness or purity (Study 2, N = 261) and that metarelational threat partially mediated this relationship (Study 3, N = 357). Turkish participants generally based their judgments on the principle of unity, whereas the Americans tended to base theirs on the principle of equality. Study 4 (N = 138) confirmed the key findings and indicated that harmfulness was not related to moral wrongness when relational motive violation was low, but it did predict perceptions of moral wrongness when relational motivation was high. Study 5 (N = 152), by contrast, showed that harmfulness and impurity were superior to violations of relational motives in predicting the perceived moral wrongness of severe harmful and impure behaviors. Study 6 (N = 134) addressed this inconsistency and confirmed that relational motivations matter for perceptions of moral wrongness. Implications of the current research for understanding morality are discussed, and avenues for future research are recommended.