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Law and Psychology Series #3: Psychology of Opposition to Harm Reduction Policies


April 10, 2012 12:45pm - 2:00pm

Room 285

Professor Rob MacCoun presents his paper: Moral Outrage and Opposition to Harm Reduction

Three public opinion studies examined public attitudes toward prevalence reduction (PR) and harm reduction (HR) across a wide variety of domains. Studies 1 and 2 were telephone surveys of California adults’ views on PR and HR strategies for a wide range of risk domains (heroin, alcoholism, tobacco, skateboarding, teen sex, illegal immigration, air pollution, and fast food). “Moral outrage” items (immoral, disgusting, irresponsible, dangerous) predicted preference for PR over HR, with disgust the most important predictor. In contrast, preferences were not predicted by whether the risk behavior was common, no one else’s business, or harmless. Study 3 explored whether there are domains where liberals might reject HR. A sample of liberal students preferred HR>PR for heroin, but PR>HR for ritual female circumcision; path analysis suggested that this reversal was explained by moral outrage rather than consequentialist judgments of harm to self and harm to others.