Department or Program

Interdisciplinary Studies


The American Jewish community is liberal, yet some contend that American Jews become more conservative when thinking about the defense of Israel. Recent research suggests that conservatives base their moral judgments on the foundations of fairness, minimizing harm, in-group favoritism, respect for authority, and purity. By contrast, liberals largely base moral judgments on just two foundations: fairness and harm-minimization (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009). This thesis expands this research by thinking about how a topic that is important to someone alters their moral reasoning. If Israel is important to someone who is Jewish and if thinking about Israel, specifically in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, makes American Jews more conservative, they should alter their moral judgments in ways consistent with conservatives. To test this hypothesis, two studies primed Jews and non-Jews to think about Israel or a different location, and measured the accessibility and relevance of moral foundation categories. Results suggest that priming for Israel does not influence the moral reasoning of Jewish-Americans. However, when asked to think about explicit moral violations committed by military guards, Jewish-Americans expressed less concern for the interrogated victim, less anger at the interrogating soldier, and more support for the soldier’s actions when the military guards were Israeli, compared to a different location. Irrespective of ingroup identification, when individuals were presented with a moral violation committed by soldiers from a nation that they glorify, individuals also showed a preference for conservative-consistent moral foundations. The results from this study also suggest that previous research may have conflated the effects of ingroup identification and those of group-specific glorification.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages



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