I have found that people are often "roused to action," activism and even zealotry by attributing either extreme of "nobleness" or "despicability" to their self or group identity.
I don't know if there is a name for this phenomena. I'll give two examples to help pin this down.
Attribution of Despicability
For example, Fred is an evangelical who has an axe to grind with Catholicism. Fred encounters an apathetic Catholic named Phil, who neither knows or cares anything about his alleged Catholic faith, and yet Fred proceeds to blast Phil verbally (under the appellation "you Catholics") for how despicable and anti-biblical their beliefs are.
Phil becomes very unsettled and defensive from this encounter, and subsequently chooses not just to learn his faith - but to defend it as well. Ironically Phil grows into a zealot for his Catholic faith due to Fred's negative outburst. It could be said that Phil has (subconsciously?) resolved to prove Fred wrong or perhaps to attain a form of revenge?
Attribution of Nobleness
Jake, a young man, is an athletic but wayward soul. He encounters a decorated army veteran named Gabe who says "I've been watching you for several days now lad, and I can tell you that in you is a greatness that is meant to be released." The subsequent conversation inspires Jake to join the military and, indeed, Jake subsequently has a stellar military career that proves Gabe was right!
I realize that not every dynamic has a specific name in psychology, but it troubles me that the overall phenomena I'm outlining isn't represented in public dialogue, particularly when it comes to politics. I believe the nation is becoming increasingly polarized and hostile because "attribution of despicability" is counter-productively generating the wrong kind of zealotry and thus ever-deepening unproductive contrasts.
- "You leftists just want to destroy democracy". Well, the "leftist" did not have an opinion about democracy before the accusation, but due to the judgmental accusation...the leftist began to study and embrace arguments of why democracy is evil.
- "You rightists just want to subjugate minorities". Well the "rightest" who had no particular sentiment before now adopts a passive-aggressive attitude about those who claim to support minorities and perhaps against minorities as well.
In short, both positive and negative accusation(s) have a catalytic or causal power. Seen this way, in the case of negative accusations which we use to judge and condemn, the reality is that "we have met the enemy, and it is ourselves."
I wouldn't be surprised if psychology has two names which treat both the "attribution of nobleness" and the "attribution of despicability" as two different things, even though I see them as flip-sides of the same coin.
Until I learn more about this, and understand it better, I'm going to call the overall phenomenon "Manifest Testimony"...intentionally echoing the phonetics of the otherwise unrelated "Manifest Destiny."