Justice and Immigration: The Effect of Moral Exclusion

Stefano Passini, Paola Villano


Numerous media news items suggest on a daily basis that people tend to use harsher criteria when they judge immigrants than members of their own in-group. In the present research project, we were interested in studying individual justice judgments of a violation of a law by an Italian (in-group) or an immigrant (out-group) member and the influence of moral exclusion processes on the assessment. In particular, we examined whether those people who tend to exclude out-groups from their scope of justice will give such biased judgments and will adopt double standards, while inclusive people will not. A total of 255 people evaluated the seriousness of a crime in two different law-breaking scenarios in which the offender’s and the victim’s nationalities were systematically changed (either Italian or Romanian). Moreover, participants completed a scale measuring the moral inclusion/exclusion of other social groups. As hypothesized, participants who tended to exclude some groups from their moral community judged the Romanian more harshly than the Italian culprit. On the contrary, those people that tended to have a more inclusive moral community did not show any difference in evaluation. In conclusion, the present research highlights the importance of considering the effect of moral inclusion/exclusion processes on the evaluation of justice events, especially in an intergroup context.


justice; moral exclusion; double standards; immigration; intergroup conflict

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21500/20112084.3262

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