Moral Typecasting Explains Evaluations of Undocumented Immigrants


  • Rachel R. Steele Orcid


Policies toward undocumented immigrants have fueled political debates recently. Since policies are multidimensional, I proposed examining support for two types of policies: punishing or helping. The Theory of Dyadic Morality (Schein & Gray, 2018,, above other theoretical approaches, was the most fitting to analyze these divergent perspectives. Based on the typecast model, I hypothesized that agent typecast beliefs would predict punishing and patient (victim) beliefs would predict helping. Thus, I expected the agent effect to be mediated through disgust and anger and the victim effect to be mediated through empathy-related emotions. In Study 1 participants provided open-ended responses regarding their beliefs about undocumented immigrants, which were coded for agent and victim themes. Viewing undocumented immigrants as agents of harm was associated with support for punishing policies, and this link was mediated by elevated disgust/anger. Study 2 replicated these Study 1 findings and, in addition, found that perceiving undocumented immigrants as victims was associated with support for helping policies. This link was mediated by increased empathy-related emotions. Implications for ongoing policy debates were discussed.