Displacing blame over the ingroup's harming of a disadvantaged group can fuel moral outrage at a third-party scapegoat

Zachary K. Rothschild, Mark J. Landau, Ludwin E. Molina, Nyla R. Branscombe, Daniel Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Integrating research on intergroup emotions and scapegoating, we propose that moral outrage toward an outgroup perceived to be unjustly harming another outgroup can represent a motivated displacement of blame that reduces collective guilt over ingroup harm-doing. We tested this hypothesis by manipulating the purported cause of working-class Americans' suffering (ingroup cause vs. unknown cause vs. outgroup cause) and whether a potential scapegoat target (i.e., illegal immigrants) was portrayed as a viable or nonviable alternative source of this harm. Supporting hypotheses, participants primed with ingroup culpability for working-class harm (versus other sources) reported increased moral outrage and support for retributive action toward immigrants when immigrants were portrayed as a viable source of that harm, but reported increased collective guilt and support for reparative action when immigrants were portrayed as a nonviable source of that harm. Effects on retributive and reparative action were differentially mediated by moral outrage and collective guilt, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-906
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Collective guilt
  • Immigrants
  • Moral outrage
  • Reparative action
  • Retributive action
  • Scapegoating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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