ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Moralizers: The Psychology of Political Correctness

Updated on January 22, 2017
Thomas Swan profile image

Dr. Thomas Swan studied cognition and culture at Queen's University Belfast. He's researched a range of psychological traits and disorders.

Moralizers are quick to condemn others.
Moralizers are quick to condemn others. | Source

What are moralizers?

Moralizers are individuals who make frequent moral judgments about people and events that have no direct impact on their lives. They are quick to reach conclusions, and will make their judgment known to as many people as possible. As a result, moralizers revel in political correctness, and will use it to condemn and destroy the reputation of those who don't conform.

The individual psychology that generates our proclivity for condemnation may merely be a heightened sense of empathy or sensitivity. However, it may have a more opaque and pernicious cause. This article will discuss the possibility that moralizing serves a duel purpose of enhancing one’s reputation while destroying that of another. This abusive function may have evolved to increase the status of the moralizer.

Despite abuse, morality is the bedrock of civilization, and an evolutionary blueprint for reciprocity, friendship, and love. Without an aversion to causing harm, social chaos, or bodily defilement, society could not function. War, murder and disease would be rampant, and our technological and scientific advances would never have transpired.

As a species, we recognise these benefits, and are tuned towards enforcing a moral code. However, to achieve our desired utopia, we rely on the judgments of others and reward their vigilance with increased trust and friendship. It is this reward that may cause moralizers to abuse the system by indiscriminately declaring moral transgressions.

Right wing political correctness

The Politics of PC

Political correctness isn't exclusively a left wing or a right wing phenomenon; it is a human problem. Both sides of the political spectrum condemn non-conformers for different reasons. Blaming the problem on liberals or conservatives shows an ignorance associated with an extreme position on the opposite side.

The absurdity of political correctness

Political correctness is often the moralizer’s weapon of choice. It is defined as excessive deference to the sensibilities of others, and commonly concerns issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or religion. An expression or viewpoint becomes politically correct when it is culturally imposed as a replacement for unfavorable terms or opinion.

The absurdity of political correctness is borne out on the `euphemism treadmill’. Words become politically incorrect when they become popular enough to be used by people who use them in a derogatory way. These `dysphemisms' are replaced by politically correct words, or euphemisms. Eventually, the replacements become popular enough to be used by bigots, and the whole cycle begins again. For example, the `N’ word was replaced by `black’, which has now become `African American'.

Rather than recognizing the importance of context and intent, we have instead noticed that bigots like short words. As a result, we've burdened our language with multi-syllable expressions such as intellectually disabled, visually impaired, and Native American.

Moralizers are attracted to politically correct terms because they are well-known, and therefore effective. They seek them out, and build a conceptual dictionary of politically correct expressions that can be used to bash non-conformers over the head with.

Some individuals use a different tool. Religion is used by moralizers to condemn people for a plethora of cultural wrongs, and the Bible is often interpreted so that it may perform this function. The union of religion with the political right is why political correctness is often a liberal phenomenon. Without religion, our common proclivity for moralizing must find another outlet.

Whether disgust, anger, or contempt, moral condemnation is typically fueled by emotion.
Whether disgust, anger, or contempt, moral condemnation is typically fueled by emotion. | Source

The psychology of political correctness

Remarking on someone’s moral transgressions has the effect of harming their reputation and bolstering one's own. Those making frequent moral judgments in public are seen to be morally concerned individuals. This demonstrates trustworthiness and an adherence to common principles, bringing increased trade and friendship opportunities. This reward may motivate individuals to become moralizers.

In support of this theory, Jonathan Haidt has performed a number of psychology experiments to show that our moral judgments are fueled by emotion. This emotional reasoning produces an intuitive judgment of wrongdoing. We feel anger in response to harm, disgust in response to the diseased, and compassion to maintain or generate friendship by demonstrating our concern. These moral emotions are triggered by events that threaten us, our allies, or our potential allies. Indeed, emotions evolved to unconsciously and unavoidably bias our actions in beneficial ways. Haidt found that the presence of emotion is what separates moral rules from conventional rules, meaning that morality must serve a partially selfish purpose.

How we attempt to comprehend these intuitive judgments is even more fascinating. In one experiment, Haidt asked participants to read a vignette in which a brother and sister described an incestuous encounter. Haidt was careful to state that it was completely secret, the sibling relationship was not ruined, there was no chance of procreation, and they had decided against a repeat encounter. When participants were asked what they thought of the vignette, most claimed it was disgusting and morally wrong. However, when asked to justify their intuitive judgment, they were unable because all avenues had been removed (procreation, ostracism, destroyed relationship, etc). The participants were described as morally dumbfounded, i.e. they thought something was wrong but couldn't explain why.

This tells us that people are more disposed to justify their emotion-based moral judgments than question them. In other words, we are motivated to justify any intuitive moral judgment we produce, no matter how irrational. In terms of human evolution, this capacity for moralizing can only exist if it serves a salubrious purpose. Given that morally concerned individuals receive a greater number of trade and friendship opportunities, this purpose may explain the evolutionary psychology of political correctness.

Never be afraid to say what you think.
Never be afraid to say what you think. | Source


Moral judgments promote a singular interpretation of ambiguous events, and a commitment to one absolute truth. Thus, emotion-based moral judgments will always simplify complicated situations, leading to the condemnation of innocent individuals. Moralizers make these judgments prolifically, and will add to their repertoire of outrageous and offensive transgressions by generating and memorizing a panoply of politically correct expressions. They are motivated by the rewards of their endeavor, such as increased opportunities for trust and friendship, and feelings of self-righteousness.

As society inches towards moral fulfillment, the opportunity for moralizing becomes smaller, and the incentive to create new politically correct expressions becomes greater. Political correctness is our herd instinct telling us how to garner praise from our comrades so we can flatten our enemies. As with most cultural deficiencies, it is a problem that can best be solved with education and reason.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 3 years ago

      How do you go about changing your skin color from white to black? Is there some kind of dark chocolate tan?

    • profile image

      brian 3 years ago

      I think that is a myth. Most black people I talk to say police do not bother them.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 3 years ago from New Zealand

      But how will you deal with getting pulled over by cops all the time?

    • profile image

      brian 3 years ago

      I am trying to change my skin color to black. If I am successful I will not have to worry too much about political correctness. Black skin will give me much more flexibility on what I can and can not say.

      black skin will also make me look stronger, reduce my chances of getting robbed, give me more job security and help me with the ladies.

      I also plan on making a career out of being black. I am going to go undercover as a black boss and try to motivate black employees. Big money movement.

      Black skin will shield you from political correctness. Black skin is like an insurance policy on the road of life. And I hope I can pull this off.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for the comments SilentReed and LibertyCell. SR, I think you're talking more about sparing people from embarrassment. In other words, being polite by withholding harmful truths or telling white lies. That's not the same at political correctness, but I think I've heard the term used that way. I don't think it's the correct meaning though.

      LC, that's closer to how PC is defined - It has certainly morphed into a way of stifling discussion by assuming the other person is guilty of racism, sexism or some other discriminatory behavior because they used a politically incorrect word or viewpoint (e.g. the N-word).

    • TheLibertyCell profile image

      Jim Lyde 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I disagree, SilentReed. I don't think PC was ever intended to provide a way of "saving face." PC was "invented" to challenge the stubborn use of racist terms despite the movement toward equality within the society. PC was successful, in the main. It has continued beyond that, and now is used to stifle discussion - not because one is wrong based on the truth of issues, but because one is wrong because one had the temerity to even broach the subject.

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

      Our sense of morality is base on our belief and value system of what defines right or wrong. Being honest and straightforward does not mean one has to be blunt in speech. Political correctness may be another euphemism for "saving face", which is an Asian concept that allows the other party to keep intact their dignity. This allows all parties concern room to maneuver and diplomatically arrive at a mutual agreement.This is often misconstrue by Western "frankness" as evasive and a kind of doublespeak. Like you, I too would prefer the term "Moralizers" for political correctness instead of the more offensive "Hypocrites", which is nowhere to be found in this well written article.:)

    • TheLibertyCell profile image

      Jim Lyde 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thank you Mr. Swan! That fixed it.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      The default option is comments are on, so you must have deleted the capsule box. In edit mode, if you look at the choice of capsules to the top right, there is one called comments. That probably puts them back in.

    • TheLibertyCell profile image

      Jim Lyde 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thanks for looking. I'm sorry, I am new to this and don't know how to turn on the comments section.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      I gave your hub a read, but you don't seem to have the comments section turned on.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Liberty Cell. I think PC can be applied indiscriminately by people when they hear the trigger word. There may be some conditions like political allegiance - for example, a democrat hearing a republican use the word `spastic' instead of intellectually disabled wouldn't care who the republican is. This could be anyone right-wing; meaning half the population, which is pretty indiscriminate. Some people don't even have preconditions like that though. They'll literally condemn anyone who accidentally uses the wrong word. Britain is not as divided down the middle as America. Even the most left-wing candidate will be condemned by liberals for using the wrong word, and vice versa. I agree that once the "sin" is committed, it becomes very personal and demonizing, but in terms of selecting a target, it is more often indiscriminate in my opinion. I'll take a look at your hub.

    • TheLibertyCell profile image

      Jim Lyde 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Excellent, but a little too "PC!" Ex. "indiscriminately declaring moral transgressions" - declaring moral transgressions is usually VERY discriminate, specific and planned. PC is often knowingly used to demonize, defer, deflect and otherwise avoid unwinnable discussions if based on the validity of issues. I would appreciate your comments on my Hub, "The Folly of Political Correctness."


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)