More important and surprising actions of a moral exemplar trigger stronger admiration and inspiration

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Admiring a moral role model has been found to inspire people to become better persons themselves. But what are the antecedents that trigger admiration and thus make inspiration more likely? In three studies, we tested the effect of perceived importance and perceived surprisingness of the moral action on resulting admiration and inspiration. Study 1 finds that perceived importance, and to a lesser extent, the perceived surprisingness of a moral action, are related to stronger admiration. Manipulating the perceived importance of the same moral action by only providing a little more detail about the moral action, could increase the admiration and inspiration the role models elicit (Studies 2 and 3). Our findings help the understanding of how moral exemplars trigger inspiration and provide valuable insights into further investigation toward the causes of admiration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-397
JournalThe Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
Early online dateSep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • admiration
  • inspiration
  • moral elevation
  • role models
  • appraisals

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