This article was tweeted out by my token skeptic hero, Michael Shermer, a couple of weeks ago. I keep him around because he amuses me.

But I didn’t really want to read it for fear that it might splay my innards out onto myself, and for all the world to see.

True skepticism is a continuing attempt to question everything – not just stuff others believe that you think is stupid, but what you believe, too, that you think is smart.

And sure enough, after reading this article, it might have splayed me.

Does it splay you?

From the study:

Feelings of guilt are a direct threat to one’s sense that they are a moral person and, accordingly, research on guilt finds that this emotion elicits strategies aimed at alleviating guilt that do not always involve undoing one’s actions. Furthermore, research shows that individuals respond to reminders of their group’s moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing. These findings suggest that feelings of moral outrage, long thought to be grounded solely in concerns with maintaining justice, may sometimes reflect efforts to maintain a moral identity.

The study found 5 major things about moral outrage:

1. Triggering feelings of personal culpability for a problem increases moral outrage at a third-party target.

2. The more guilt over one’s own potential complicity, the more desire to punish a third-party through increased moral outrage at that target.

3. Having the opportunity to express outrage at a third-party decreased guilt in people threatened through ingroup immorality.

4. The opportunity to express moral outrage at corporate harm-doers inflated participants perception of personal morality.

5. Guilt-induced moral outrage was lessened when people could assert their goodness through alternative means, even in an unrelated context.

Could this righteous fight that we’ve all engaged in regarding Scientology, for all these years, have only been because we felt guilty and needed to re-establish our own moral identity after finding out how abusive Scientology had been?

No way!

Read the article on
Read the study from Motivation and Emotion