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Ronnie Janoff-Bulman

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. 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.

Primary Interests:

  • Ethics and Morality
  • Helping, Prosocial Behavior
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Political Psychology
  • Social Cognition


  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered assumptions: Towards a new psychology of trauma. New York: Free Press.

Journal Articles:

  • Usoof-Thowfeek, R., Janoff-Bulman, R., & Tavernini, J. (2011). Moral judgments and the role of social harm: Differences in automatic versus controlled processing. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1-6.
  • Sheikh, S., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (2010). A self-regulatory perspective on shame and guilt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 213-224.
  • Sheikh, S., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (2013). Paradoxical consequences of prohibitions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 301-315.
  • Rock, M., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (2010). Where do we draw our lines? Politics, rigidity, and the role of self-regulation. Social Psychological and Personaltiy Science, 1, 26-33.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., Sheikh, S., & Hepp, S. (2009). Proscriptive versus prescriptive morality: Two faces of moral regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 521-537.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., Sheikh, S., & Baldacci, K. G. (2008). Mapping moral motives: Approach, avoidance, and political orientation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1091-1099.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. & Sheikh, S. (2011). Unintended consequences of moral "over-regulation." Emotion Review, 3, 325-327.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., & Carnes, N. C. (2013). Surveying the moral landscape: Moral motives and group-based moralities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17, 219-236.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., & Carnes, N. C. (2013). Moral context matters: A reply to Graham. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17, 242-247.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (1979). Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: Inquiries into depression and rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1798-1809.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (2008). Erroneous assumptions: Popular belief in the effectiveness of torture interrogation. Peace and Conflict, Special Issue: “Torture,” 13, 429-435.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (2009). To provide or protect: Motivational bases of political liberalism and conservatism. Psychological Inquiry, 20, 120-128.

Other Publications:

  • Sheikh, S., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (2010). Tracing the self-regulatory bases of moral emotions. Emotion Review, 2, 386-396.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., & Werther, A. (2008). The social psychology of respect: Implications for delegitimization and reconciliation. To appear in A. Nadler, T. Malloy, & J. D. Fisher (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Inter-Group Reconciliation. NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R., & Parker, M. (2012). The moral bases of public distrust: Politics, partisanship, and compromise. In R. Kramer & T. Pittinsky. Restoring trust: Challenges and prospects (pp. 7-23). NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (2011). Conscience: The do's and don'ts of moral regulation. To appear in M. Mikulciner & P. Shaver (Eds.), The social psychology of morality: Exploring the causes of good and evil. Washington, DC: American Psycholgoical Association.
  • Janoff-Bulman, R. (2013). Meaning and morality: A natural coupling. In K. Markman, T. Proulx & M. Lindberg (Eds.), The psychology of meaning (pp.191-213). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts 01003
United States

  • Phone: (413) 545-0264
  • Fax: (413) 545-0996

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