Expressing Moral Outrage Could Make You More Attractive to Others, Study Finds

If you’ve ever gotten on your high horse about one injustice or another — and in today’s world, we all know there’s enough to choose from on any given day — science now says that moral outrage is actually working for you.

Yep, it turns out that displaying moral outrage is an attractive behaviour, specifically in terms of people seeking a long-term relationship (there’s that ‘set for life’ bit). The study, which was published in the journal Emotion, found that people who displayed moral outrage were considered “more benevolent and trustworthy”, in comparison to those who didn’t display outrage.

Meaning? The former were more likely to possess “other prosocial behaviours” that would be beneficial in a long-term relationship.

There is one catch, however. It’s more than just an Instagram square of some sort in solidarity — you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Yes, your moral outrage has to actually involve action — action to address the moral wrong, not just talk about it to be more attractive to the opposite sex.

As for how information like this is even found? First author of the study, Mitch Brown, said he’d looked at how prosocial behaviour makes individuals be seen as better long-term prospects, but that he was “interested in understanding how emotional displays could do the same thing.”

The study looked at 870 participants — all heterosexual — and asked them to rate the attractiveness of fictional dating profiles of the same, and opposite, sexes. The same-sex questions were used to “gauge perceptions how moral outrage influenced perceptions of an individual as interest in mating.”

Although we already know part of what they found — that moral outrage is desirable for a long-term mate, regardless of sex — women were much more attracted than men. Why? Possibly because of the aforementioned trustworthiness and benevolence — these qualities could be seen as more valuable to women.

And if you’re wondering why that is, it’s due to the fact we women “incur a substantially large minimal cost in reproduction” — think of the nine months of pregnancy compared to the time spent creating it. According to the authors, this “necessitates employment of strongest mate selection criteria to offset these costs.”

Oh, one other thing to note? Just expressing moral outrage alone doesn’t increase attractiveness. Without taking action, people’s perception of you could include that you’re neurotic and disagreeable. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.