Development of moral disengagement: learning to make wrong right

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Most people learn to distinguish right from wrong and good from bad in the early years. However, people do not always act in accord with this knowledge. Sometimes there is a mismatch between adopting moral standards and behaving in line with them. From the social cognitive theory view of moral agency, it is posited that this mismatch between standards and behavior is accommodated by invoking moral disengagement mechanisms. These mechanisms serve to exonerate immoral behavior, thereby reducing the discomfort and guilt that would typically be experienced when moral standards are violated. By justifying immoral behavior individuals are able to maintain their belief that they are moral people while behaving badly. This chapter examines the roots and developmental trajectory of moral disengagement. Social and cognitive factors associated with its development are examined along with its selective use in different contexts. Future research is needed to uncover the factors that support the use of moral disengagement mechanisms in certain contexts by some people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of moral development
    Subtitle of host publicationan interdisciplinary perspective
    EditorsLene Arnett Jensen
    Place of PublicationNew York, NY
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages21
    ISBN (Print)9780190676049
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Publication series

    NameOxford library of psychology


    • moral disengagement
    • moral standards
    • moral behavior
    • social cognitive theory
    • transgressive behavior
    • dehumanization
    • moral agency


    Dive into the research topics of 'Development of moral disengagement: learning to make wrong right'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this