From national trauma to moralizing nation

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Sana Sheikh

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The tragic events of 9/11 were experienced as an overwhelming individual trauma for those closest to the attacks and as a disorienting collective trauma for the nation as a whole. One immediate and protracted response has been an increase in moralizing in the United States. To provide a context for the increased moralizing post-9/11, we present a model of moral motives based on differences in regulatory focus, and four distinct moral orientations are distinguished: Self-Restraint, Self-Reliance, Social Order, and Social Justice. We propose that the type of moralizing that increased post-9/11 reflects a particular moral motive--Social Order--that is activated by protection and security needs and emphasizes social control and restrictions. Consistent with recent work on moral motives, this reaction can be understood as a motivated response to Americans' newfound sense of threat and insecurity in the aftermath of 9/11.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • collective trauma
  • moralizing
  • moral motives
  • self-restraint
  • self-reliance
  • social order
  • social justic
  • terror attacks
  • 9/11


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