An Extended Model of Moral Outrage at Corporate Social Irresponsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 135 (3):429-444 (2016)

A growing body of literature documents the important role played by moral outrage or moral anger in stakeholders’ reactions to cases of corporate social irresponsibility. Existing research focuses more on the consequences of moral outrage than a systematic analysis of how appraisals of irresponsible corporate behavior can lead to this emotional experience. In this paper, we develop and test, in two field studies, an extended model of moral outrage that identifies the cognitions that lead to, and are associated with, this emotional experience. This research contributes to the existing literature on reactions to corporate social irresponsibility by explaining how observers’ evaluation of irresponsible corporate behavior leads to reactions of moral anger. The paper also helps clarify the difference between moral outrage and other types of anger and offers useful insights for managers who have to confront public outrage following cases of irresponsible corporate behavior. Finally, the analysis of the causes of stakeholders’ anger at irresponsible corporations opens important avenues for future research that are presented in the paper.
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-014-2487-y
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