psychology | October 28, 2019

Scott Barry Kaufman Explores Moral Grandstanding as a Source of Conflict for Scientific American

Defined as “the use and abuse of moral talk to seek status, to promote oneself, or to boost your own brand,” moral grandstanding seems to be everywhere these days. In a new article for Scientific American, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman investigates what has become a phenomenon of the modern age.  

In a new study on moral grandstanding, clinical psychologist Joshua Grubbs and his colleagues  observed that moral grandstanders score higher on the narcissistic scale, and generally report greater moral and political conflict in their daily lives. Does this mean that moral grandstanding is the only predictor of public conflict, or that all moral or political sharing is motivated by narcissistic motives? No. In fact, it’s actually very difficult to discern someone’s motives for doing something, says Scott Barry Kaufman.


“Nevertheless, Since we are such a social species, the human need for social status is very pervasive, and often our attempts at sharing our moral and political beliefs on public social media platforms involve a mix of genuine motives with social status motives,” Kaufman writes. And though we may be virtue signalling in some form, this does not necessarily make our outrage inauthentic: “It just means that we often have a subconscious desire to signal our virtue, which when not checked, can spiral out of control and cause us to denigrate or be mean to others in order to satisfy that desire. When the need for status predominates, we may even lose touch with what we truly believe, or even what is actually the truth.”


Read the full article here.


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