Perceptions of Moral Violations and Personality Traits Among Heroes and Villains

Allison Eden, Mary Beth Oliver, Ron Tamborini, Anthony Limperos, Julia Woolley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This study investigates disposition-formation processes in entertainment by predicting perceptions of media heroes and villains by their behavior in specific moral domains. Participants rated self-selected heroes and villains from television and film along the moral domains of care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity (Haidt & Joseph, 2007) as well as along dimensions of warmth, competence, and duplicity used in impression-formation research (Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). Results show that heroes violate moral norms in domains of authority and purity, whereas villains violated moral norms in the domains of caring and group loyalty. Furthermore, these moral violations are associated with personality dimensions of warmth and competence differently for each character type, such that impressions of heroes are driven by their work in the care domain (i.e., saving or protecting people), whereas for villains, violation of purity norms is most strongly associated with subsequent impression formation processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-208
Number of pages23
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication


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