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Social Brown Bag: How does culture shape responses to immoral behavior?

Martha Berg, Graduate Student, Social Psychology
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
12:00-1:20 PM
Imagine witnessing your best friend committing a crime. Would you act out of loyalty to your friend, by protecting them from punishment, or loyalty to your society, by punishing their crime? Moral norms help us balance between the needs of the group and those of individuals, and societies across the globe vary in the balance they strike. Among Americans, the answer is clear: people reliably choose to protect close others who commit moral transgressions, thereby prioritizing individuals at the expense of society. How might this differ in collectivist cultural contexts? Decades of cultural psychology research present two compelling possibilities. On one hand, people in collectivist contexts may perceive outcomes to be shared among close others. Therefore, to avoid negative consequences for the self, they may protect close others even more strongly than Americans. On the other hand, people in collectivist contexts may prioritize the group over any individual, which would predict a weaker tendency to protect close others. Across three studies, we provide self-report and narrative evidence supporting the latter hypothesis. In Studies 1 and 2, we show that Japanese (vs. Americans) are more punitive toward close others who commit crimes, and that this is driven by societal (vs. individual) concerns. In Study 3, we show that this cultural difference disappears when society is less implicated in the crime. Together, this work underscores the importance of context in shaping interpersonal moral decisions.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Presentation
Tags: brown bag
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Department of Psychology, Social Psychology