Theses Doctoral

Norm Adherence and Violation: Different Motivational Locus for Moral Rules versus Social Conventions

Liu, Zaijia

Although prior work has investigated the important influence of social norms, research has yet to explore the differential impact of internalization (i.e., the degree to which social norms regulate one’s behavior by integrated personal values versus external pressures) on different types of social norms. This dissertation compares the motivational underpinnings of moral rules and social conventions. To do so, I examine both norm adherence and responses to observed violations.

Chapter 1 examines how internalization influences adherence to different norms. In three studies across different contexts, I found that intrinsic motivation (i.e., inner valuation) drives adherence to moral rules, whereas extrinsic motivation (i.e., the weight placed on the community’s judgments and sanctions) drives adherence to social conventions.

Chapter 2 investigates individuals’ reactions to moral or conventional norm violations. Across seven studies, I showed that extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for norms moderate observers’ responses to different types of norm violations in terms of inappropriateness (i.e., cognitive response), anger (i.e., emotional response), punishment (i.e., behavioral tendency), and heart rate reactivity (i.e., physiological response). Results suggest that for moral norms, negative reactions to violations are stronger for individuals feeling higher intrinsic motivation. However, for social conventions, negative reactions are greater for individuals with higher extrinsic motivation.

Chapter 3 introduces an important motivational concept—need for cognitive closure (NFCC, i.e., desperation to seek an answer). With two different studies, I found that NFCC is more likely to make people stressed out when confronting violations to moral than to conventional norms.

Taken together, this dissertation has established the critical interaction between the domain of norms and one’s motivation to influence norm adherence and enforcement.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Morris, Michael W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2022