Moral dilemmas amid war on terrorism include repeated harsh moral choices, which often pose threats to one’s moral image. Given that people strive to view themselves as moral, how do they cope with such morally compromising decisions? We suggest and test two strategies to cope with morally threatening decision-making under in-group moral responsibility amid war on terrorism: (a) trivialization of the moral dilemma and (b) resentment toward the target. Four experimental studies measured (study 1) and manipulated (studies 2–4) these hypothesized mechanisms, presenting a similar collateral damage dilemma to Israeli Jews in the context of the 2014 Gaza conflict (studies 1 and 2) and to Americans in the context of the US campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (studies 3 and 4). Results demonstrate that both trivialization and resentment facilitate harsh moral choices under conditions of moral accountability. Studying the mechanism underlying moral decision-making in conflicts is key to understanding moral injury and the process of moral repair.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was made possible, in part, by grants from the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations (PBNB, DC and SF), the Israel Science Foundation (487/08) (DC), the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (2009460) (DC), and the Eilat Foundation for United States–Israel Studies (PBNB).
© The Author(s) 2019.
- conflict resolution
- coping strategies
- exposure to terrorism
- moral dilemma
- war on terrorism