Leaders’ Use of Moral Justifications Increases Policy Support

Alex B. Van Zant, Don A. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Leaders must choose how to justify their organization’s actions to stakeholders. We differentiate moral frames, or justifications based on moral values, from pragmatic frames, or justifications based on practical costs and benefits. In Experiments 1a and 1b, we found that moral policy frames elicited more support than pragmatic frames across a variety of scenarios. This effect was mediated by the perception that leaders who offer moral justifications possess relatively greater moral character. In Experiment 2, we found that perceptions of a leader’s private motives had a stronger influence on policy support than did the leader’s public stance. Experiment 3 demonstrated that, irrespective of how a policy was framed, people were most supportive of a policy championed by a leader high in moral character. In Experiment 4, we documented an additional benefit of moral policy frames: They allow leaders to mitigate the moral outrage generated by reneging on a policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)934-943
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 6 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • judgment
  • morality
  • open data
  • open materials
  • policy making
  • preregistered
  • social perception
  • values


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