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About Ronnie Janoff-Bulman

My current research focuses on the psychology of morality, and in particular the nature of (im)moral motives. In applying a self-regulatory perspective to the moral domain, my students and I have explored two fundamental forms of morality. Proscriptive morality (based in avoidance/inhibition) focuses on what we should not do; it involves restraining a motivation to do something bad, and thus overcoming temptation or desire. Prescriptive morality (based in approach/activation) focuses on what we should do; it requires overcoming inertia and establishing a motivation to do something good. Our research suggests that proscriptive morality is condemnatory and strict, whereas prescriptive morality is commendatory and more discretionary. From a broader perspective, proscriptive morality constrains human self-interest and protects a group and its members, whereas prescriptive morality enables human altruism and provides for group members.
We have used this basic motivational distinction to develop a comprehensive model of morality reflecting moral motives focused on the self (self-restraint/moderation, industriousness), another (not harming, helping/fairness), and the group (social order, social justice). My students and I have been investigating the relationship between morality and political ideology, with a particular focus on understanding the moral underpinnings of social order and social justice, the two group-based moralities. We are also exploring the domains of power and prejudice through the lens of morality.
My research on morality is currently supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation: "Moral Regulation: A Dual-System Perspective"
(My past research focused on trauma and posttraumatic growth as well as processes of value creation.)


Present Editor, Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory (2010 - present), University of Massachusetts Amherst
Present Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst


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Honors and Awards

  • National Science Foundation Grant 2011-2014

Contact Information

Department of Psychology
628 Tobin Hall
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003
Tel: 413-545-0264
Fax: 413-545-0996


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