Article

The Construction of Victim and Perpetrator Memories: Accuracy and Distortion in Role-Based Accounts

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Abstract

To study how roles shape the construction of narrative accounts, participants read a story while identifying with its victim or perpetrator and then retold the story in their own words. In Study 2, participants told the story twice, the second time after a 3-to 5-day retention interval. In Study 3, some participants were given instructions to tell as accurate a story as possible. In all three studies, victims and perpetrators distorted to about the same extent, significantly more than control participants and especially by selective omission of uncongenial facts. Specific distortions suggested self-serving, role-based motivations. Perpetrators embellished mitigating circumstances and their own benevolent actions while omitting facts that emphasized severity and responsibility. Victims concentrated on details that described the severity of the offense and downplayed the perpetrator's positive actions.

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... One influential factor in the way people describe these aggressive behaviors is their role in the interaction. Victims, the people who receive the harm, often report aggressive behaviors as more harmful than perpetrators, the people who mete out the harm (Baumeister, 1996;Baumeister et al., 1990;Elshout et al., 2017;McCarthy and Rivers, 2021;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). In the previous example, victims would be likely to claim they were yelled at, whereas perpetrators would be more likely to claim they were merely speaking assertively. ...
... That victims report aggressive behaviors as more harmful than perpetrators is well established (e.g., Baumeister, 1996). This difference in reported harm occurs when comparing the memories of aggressive interactions (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Elshout et al., 2017), when participants are randomly assigned to adopt the perspective of the victim or perpetrator in a vignette (e.g., Adams and Inesi, 2016;McCarthy and Rivers, 2021;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997), and when people are randomly assigned to deliver or receive harm in a contrived laboratory interaction (e.g., Adams and Inesi, 2016). Thus, the victimperpetrator asymmetry does not seem to be confined to highly-specific situations, instead, it seems to be a rather general finding. ...
... Further, when recounting their past aggressive experiences, victims spontaneously describe the perpetrator's behavior as arbitrary and inexplicable whereas perpetrators spontaneously mention justifications for their behaviors (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990). In situations where objective information about the aggressive behavior is available, victims and perpetrators have been shown to distort-i.e., omit, misremember, and even insert-information in self-serving ways (e.g., Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). These are all different tacks people take to frame aggressive behaviors in self-serving ways. ...
Article
Aggressive behaviors occur when one person, a perpetrator, intentionally harms another person, a victim (e.g., Parrott and Giancola, 2007). When reporting their judgments, victims often report aggressive behaviors as being more harmful than perpetrators do—a so-called victim-perpetrator asymmetry. This asymmetry is well-established (Baumeister et al., 1990; Elshout et al., 2017; Ent and Parton, 2019; McCarthy and Rivers, 2021); however, there is scant experimental tests of the conditions under which the effect is especially strong. In that vein, the current Registered Report examined whether the victim-perpetrator asymmetry is stronger in conditions when people feel they will be evaluated for blameworthiness. In our first study, participants read a vignette describing an aggressive interaction and were assigned to adopt the perspective of either the victim or the perpetrator. In our second study, participants either recalled an instance when they intentionally harmed another person or an instance when they were harmed by another person. Further, in both studies, half the participants were told we were interested in determining who was more to blame in the situation and half received no such instructions. All participants then rated the harmfulness of the aggressive behavior. The victim-perpetrator asymmetry was unchanged by our blameworthiness manipulations in both studies. These results did not support our hypothesis that telling people they will be evaluated for blame will increase victims' and perpetrators' judgments of aggressive behaviors.
... All narratives have a tendency to be biased and self-serving (McAdams, 2008), and victims' narratives are no exception (e.g. Resnick, 1997;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). Furthermore, others construct narratives as well, which may be at odds with the victim's version of events (see also Van Dijk, 2009). ...
... In a set of studies, social psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues examined the manner in which people speak about moral transgressions (Baumeister, 1997;Baumeister et al., 1990;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). Individuals were asked to recount episodes in which they felt wronged by someone -a proxy for victimisation -or in which they thought they had wronged someone -a proxy for perpetration (Baumeister et al., 1990). ...
... Individuals were asked to recount episodes in which they felt wronged by someone -a proxy for victimisation -or in which they thought they had wronged someone -a proxy for perpetration (Baumeister et al., 1990). In follow-up studies they were tasked to remember the details of a given situation from the 'victim's' or the 'perpetrator's' perspective (Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). Analyses reveal differences in moral tone, impact, importance of context factors and time frame. ...
Article
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This article offers a novel approach to the difficulties experienced by victims in relation to their social surroundings in general, and to justice processes in particular, by expanding on an emerging paradigm of narrative victimology. For victims, ownership of their narrative is a key element of their experience, but this ownership is contested. The article brings together a body of victimological literature drawn from social and personality psychology, criminology and sociology to illuminate mechanisms underlying possible tensions between victims’ narratives and other perspectives on their ordeal. These tensions are relevant to understanding secondary victimisation in the criminal justice processes, as well as to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of restorative justice as a possible avenue for meeting victims’ needs.
... "I avenge; others aggress": A victim-perpetrator asymmetry in judging whether a transgression was motivated by revenge Perpetrators differ from victims in their interpretation of transgressions (Adams & Inesi, 2016;Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Kowalski, 2000;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997;Wainryb, Brehl, & Matwin, 2005;Zechmeister & Romero, 2002). These divergent interpretations likely result from perpetrators and victims having different motivations. ...
... Differences between the way victims and perpetrators view transgressions have been found in autobiographical narratives of both children and adults, perspective-taking exercises in which participants are instructed to identify with either a victim or a perpetrator in hypothetical scenarios, and in a laboratory experiment (Adams & Inesi, 2016;Baumeister et al., 1990;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997;Wainryb et al., 2005). Victims are more likely than perpetrators to view transgressions as intentional, malicious, emotional, and causing lasting harm (Adams & Inesi, 2016;Baumeister et al., 1990;Kowalski, 2000;Wainryb et al., 2005). ...
... Victims are more likely than perpetrators to view transgressions as intentional, malicious, emotional, and causing lasting harm (Adams & Inesi, 2016;Baumeister et al., 1990;Kowalski, 2000;Wainryb et al., 2005). Victims and perpetrators are likely equal in the degree to which they distort information to paint themselves in a positive light (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
Full-text available
In two studies, victims differed from perpetrators as to whether they viewed a transgression as motivated by a desire for revenge. When participants wrote about autobiographical episodes in which they hurt others, they were somewhat likely to report that they were motivated by revenge; when the same participants wrote about episodes in which others hurt them, they were less likely to report that the perpetrators were motivated by revenge. This asymmetry could act as a barrier to reconciliation. This asymmetry may also facilitate a cycle of revenge in that those who view themselves as the targets of unprovoked aggression (as opposed to vengeance) may be especially likely to feel that they have a score to settle.
... One influential factor in the way people describe these aggressive behaviors is their role in the interaction. Victims, the people who receive the harm, often report aggressive behaviors as more harmful than perpetrators, the people who mete out the harm (Baumeister, 1996;Baumeister et al., 1990;Elshout et al., 2017;McCarthy and Rivers, 2021;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). In the previous example, victims would be likely to claim they were yelled at, whereas perpetrators would be more likely to claim they were merely speaking assertively. ...
... That victims report aggressive behaviors as more harmful than perpetrators is well established (e.g., Baumeister, 1996). This difference in reported harm occurs when comparing the memories of aggressive interactions (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Elshout et al., 2017), when participants are randomly assigned to adopt the perspective of the victim or perpetrator in a vignette (e.g., Adams and Inesi, 2016;McCarthy and Rivers, 2021;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997), and when people are randomly assigned to deliver or receive harm in a contrived laboratory interaction (e.g., Adams and Inesi, 2016). Thus, the victimperpetrator asymmetry does not seem to be confined to highly-specific situations, instead, it seems to be a rather general finding. ...
... Further, when recounting their past aggressive experiences, victims spontaneously describe the perpetrator's behavior as arbitrary and inexplicable whereas perpetrators spontaneously mention justifications for their behaviors (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990). In situations where objective information about the aggressive behavior is available, victims and perpetrators have been shown to distort-i.e., omit, misremember, and even insert-information in self-serving ways (e.g., Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). These are all different tacks people take to frame aggressive behaviors in self-serving ways. ...
Article
Aggressive behaviors occur when one person, a perpetrator, intentionally harms another person, a victim (e.g., Parrott & Giancola, 2007). When reporting their judgments, victims often report the aggressive behaviors as being more harmful than perpetrators—a so-called victim-perpetrator asymmetry. This asymmetry is well-established (Baumeister et al., 1990; Elshout et al., 2017; Ent & Parton, 2019; McCarthy & Rivers, 2021); however, there is little empirical evidence that experimentally tests the conditions under which the victim-perpetrator asymmetry is especially strong. We propose two studies to examine whether the victim-perpetrator asymmetry is stronger in conditions when people feel they will be evaluated for blameworthiness. Specifically, in our first proposed study, participants will read a vignette describing an aggressive interaction and will be assigned to adopt the perspective of either the victim or the perpetrator. In our second proposed study, participants will either recall an instance when they intentionally harmed another person (as the perpetrator of aggression) or an instance when they were harmed by another person (as the victim of aggression). Further, in both studies, half the participants will be told we are interested in determining who was more to blame in the situation (i.e., “blameworthiness” condition) and half will receive no such instructions (i.e., the control condition). All participants will then rate the harmfulness of the aggressive behavior. We hypothesize that the victim-perpetrator asymmetry will be found in both conditions but will be stronger in situations where blame will purportedly be assigned.
... Victims, in contrast, tend to maximize the harm resulted from the perpetrators' behaviors, describing perpetrators' intentions as malicious and emphasizing negative outcomes and consequences. When participants were asked to retell ahypothetical story by identifying either with the perpetrator or the victim, similar discrepancies between perpetrator and victim accounts were confirmed (Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Thus, people selectively emphasize some aspects of an event and downplay the others in their memories to maintain favorable self-views, depending on the role they played in the event. ...
... Prior research has demonstrated that perpetrators and victims construct interpersonal transgression memories differently in a self-serving manner (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Yet there has been no study to investigate whether such biases are prevalent across cultures, in spite of the large literature concerning the interaction between culture and self-motivations in influencing cognition and behavior (Heine, 2005;Heine et al., 1999;Sedikides & Gregg, 2003). ...
Article
Full-text available
People tend to perceive themselves more favourably than others, but the degree to which individuals exhibit this bias may be influenced by cultural upbringing. Korean ( n = 271) and American ( n = 503) participants were asked to evaluate current and future health expectations for themselves and others. Results showed that American participants rated their own future health more positively than others' future health, whereas Korean participants rated their own and others' future health similarly. Given its role in patient health behaviour, implications for creating context-sensitive interventions for future health expectations are discussed.
... Transgressors may also find it difficult to admit their own culpability following the transgression (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997), which we argue is another reason why it may be hard for transgressors to persuade victims to forgive. As Adams (this issue) highlights, transgressors and victims often have asymmetric perceptions of the transgression and may consequently come to disagree about which type of response (either an apology or forgiveness) is appropriate or warranted following a transgression. ...
... Transgressors may be less likely than victims to view their actions as intentional (Adams & Inesi, 2016), as well as harmful and severe (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990). Indeed, transgressors tend to minimize or exclude information that emphasizes their responsibility for the harm caused when they recall their own transgressions (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
Society generally encourages individuals to forgive their transgressors because forgiveness can yield many psychological, physiological, and social benefits (Exline & Baumeister,). Nevertheless, victims face barriers to forgiving others, and other people face obstacles that prevent them from encouraging victims to forgive. We aim to provide insight into the various barriers that deter forgiveness by examining the role of the various parties involved—victims, transgressors, and uninvolved third parties—in creating barriers to forgiveness. We contend that beliefs held by these various parties significantly reduce the likelihood that victims will forgive their transgressors. By identifying how these beliefs impede forgiveness, we can begin to understand more fully why convincing victims to forgive is often a challenge. In our discussion, we also suggest ways by which victims, transgressors, and third parties can overcome these barriers to forgiveness.
... Victims, in contrast, tend to maximize the harm resulted from the perpetrators' behaviors, describing perpetrators' intentions as malicious and emphasizing negative outcomes and consequences. When participants were asked to retell ahypothetical story by identifying either with the perpetrator or the victim, similar discrepancies between perpetrator and victim accounts were confirmed (Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Thus, people selectively emphasize some aspects of an event and downplay the others in their memories to maintain favorable self-views, depending on the role they played in the event. ...
... Prior research has demonstrated that perpetrators and victims construct interpersonal transgression memories differently in a self-serving manner (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Yet there has been no study to investigate whether such biases are prevalent across cultures, in spite of the large literature concerning the interaction between culture and self-motivations in influencing cognition and behavior (Heine, 2005;Heine et al., 1999;Sedikides & Gregg, 2003). ...
Book
Full-text available
This book brings together scholarship that contributes diverse and new perspectives on childhood amnesia – the scarcity of memories for very early life events. The topics of the studies reported in the book range from memories of infants and young children for recent and distant life events, to mother–child conversations about memories for extended lifetime periods, and to retrospective recollections of early childhood in adolescents and adults. The methodological approaches are diverse and theoretical insights rich. The findings together show that childhood amnesia is a complex and malleable phenomenon and that the waning of childhood amnesia and the development of autobiographical memory are shaped by a variety of interactive social and cognitive factors. https://www.routledge.com/Remembering-and-Forgetting-Early-Childhood-1st-Edition/Wang-Gulgoz/p/book/9780367466305
... Victims, in contrast, tend to maximize the harm resulted from the perpetrators' behaviors, describing perpetrators' intentions as malicious and emphasizing negative outcomes and consequences. When participants were asked to retell ahypothetical story by identifying either with the perpetrator or the victim, similar discrepancies between perpetrator and victim accounts were confirmed (Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Thus, people selectively emphasize some aspects of an event and downplay the others in their memories to maintain favorable self-views, depending on the role they played in the event. ...
... Prior research has demonstrated that perpetrators and victims construct interpersonal transgression memories differently in a self-serving manner (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillweli & Baumeister, 1997). Yet there has been no study to investigate whether such biases are prevalent across cultures, in spite of the large literature concerning the interaction between culture and self-motivations in influencing cognition and behavior (Heine, 2005;Heine et al., 1999;Sedikides & Gregg, 2003). ...
Article
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This study examined cultural effects on memory for interpersonal transgressions and the relation to self-acceptance. Asian and European American college students each recalled two specific incidents, one in which they hurt or wronged others (perpetrator memory) and one in which others hurt or wronged them (victim memory). Although both Asians and European Americans tended to minimize the harm in the perpetrator memory and maximize the harm in the victim memory, Asians exhibited a greater degree of harm minimization in both types of memories than did European Americans. Furthermore, for the victim memory, harm maximization (i.e., amplifying harms done by others) was negatively associated with self-acceptance for Asians, whereas harm minimization (i.e., downplaying harms done by others) was negatively associated with self-acceptance for European Americans. The culturally divergent implications of self-serving and relationship-serving biases in constructing interpersonal transgression memories are discussed.
... Transgressions that contradict one's beliefs about what is right may undermine one's sense of being a decent, morally upstanding person. Beyond challenging the self our transgressions also create opportunities to develop insight into the complexity of self, others, and social situations (Pasupathi & Wainryb, 2010; see also Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). Because they may challenge the self in particular ways and they may present distinct developmental opportunities transgressions may be a distinct category of experience. ...
Article
Full-text available
We tested whether narrating growth from transgressions was associated with increased well-being, self-compassion, and forgiveness. Study 1 was cross-sectional (N = 118). Studies 2 and 3 were short-term longitudinal (N’s = 77 and 88). Study 1 revealed positive associations between narrating growth and well-being. Study 2 replicated Study 1 and growth-oriented narration was associated with increased self-compassion and forgiveness at session 2 beyond expected levels given session 1 scores. Study 3 replicated some Study 2 findings and growth-oriented narration was once again associated with increased self-compassion at session 2 beyond expected levels given session 1 scores. We discuss how growth-oriented narration in specific types of events may be associated with changes in specific forms of adaptive functioning and gender differences.
... Thus, the same people alternately claimed that they had good reasons for hurting another, but also claimed that when they were hurt it was from senseless abuse. A follow up study (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997) found that even where the story was not their own, people still distorted their stories to support whichever side they were assigned to, and used narratives that reflected distorted perpetrator versus victim narratives to explain what happened. Baumeister et al. (1990) suggest that "our results do not indicate that victims and perpetrators are different kinds of people; rather, the same people see things differently depending on whether they participate as victims or perpetrators. ...
Article
Full-text available
When couples fight, they tend to distort, using strategies like denial, rationalization, and deception. These are used to blame the other and minimize one’s role in the conflict. This dynamic almost always exists during conflict and is found in extreme forms when fighting turns abusive. This project involved using constructivist grounded theory methods to analyze observational data of couple interactions. Types, effects, and contextual issues related to distortions, as well as how partners used strategies to deescalate and avoid distortion, were examined. Types of distortion included accusation, justification, and victimization, and these were arranged into a model that shows the relationship between escalation and distortion. Implications for clinicians and researchers are discussed.
... The literature on the perpetrator and victim bias in judgment, however, has pointed to the negative consequences of perspective taking. Stillwell and Baumeister (1997) were among the first to show that victims and perpetrators each provide a biased view of deviant behavior, and that they do so by omitting information that may jeopardize their reputation. In the context of interpersonal relationships, Kearns and Fincham (2005) showed that perpetrators emphasized details that reduced the severity of the transgression, whereas victims did the opposite. ...
Article
Full-text available
We introduce perspective taking as an antecedent of third-party reactions to different forms of workplace deviance. Varying the perspective taken by third-parties (perpetrator; other’s perspective) and the type of workplace deviance (moderate organizational deviance; severe interpersonal deviance), we show that third-parties who take the perpetrator’s perspective perceive the incident as less of a moral violation, make less internal, and more external attributions for the perpetrator’s behavior, which in turn reduces endorsement of punishment. Findings were consistent across the four studies and not affected by the target (organization or individual) or the severity of the deviance. The mediation analysis was supported by the instrumental variable method (Studies 1 and 2) and the concurrent double randomization design (Studies 3a and 3b).
... With regard to the life history method specifically, gaining retrospective details of a life can prove problematic. Primarily, accurate details of events, thoughts, and feelings may be difficult to recall (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). This may be accentuated when recalling traumatic experiences. ...
... The literature on the perpetrator and victim bias in judgment, however, has pointed to the negative consequences of perspective taking. Stillwell and Baumeister (1997) were among the first to show that victims and perpetrators each provide a biased view of deviant behavior, and that they do so by omitting information that may jeopardize their reputation. In the context of interpersonal relationships, Kearns and Fincham (2005) showed that perpetrators emphasized details that reduced the severity of the transgression, whereas victims did the opposite. ...
... Evidence of infidelity-dissonance link from social transgression literature Baumeister and colleagues' (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997) research on victim/perpetrator accounts of social transgressions may provide insight into the motivations that guide perpetrator reactions to infidelity. Perpetrators often describe their behaviors as justifiable, out of their control, and nondeliberate. ...
Article
Full-text available
Perpetrating romantic infidelity is discrepant with how most individuals see themselves and theoretically should produce cognitive dissonance. Accordingly, perpetrators of infidelity should experience symptoms of dissonance (e.g. self-concept discrepancy, psychological discomfort, poor affect) and employ tactics that reduce these symptoms (e.g. trivialization). These hypotheses were tested in four experiments. In each experiment, participants were given bogus feedback indicating that they had acted either faithfully or unfaithfully during a prior romantic relationship (this manipulation was evaluated in experiment 1). Participants who received unfaithful feedback reported higher levels of self-concept discrepancy, psychological discomfort, and poor affect (experiments 2 and 4) and trivialized to a greater extent the importance of their ostensive infidelities (experiments 3 and 4). Experiment 4 further showed that trivialization significantly reduced self-concept discrepancy and psychological discomfort but not poor affect. These results are generally consistent with the view that infidelity is a dissonance arousing behavior and that perpetrators of infidelity respond in ways that reduce cognitive dissonance.
... Therefore, people must be motivated to think about their counterpart's perspective. Even then, perspective-taking may not resolve these asymmetries (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). Although perspective-taking can help victims understand that transgressors do want to be forgiven (Adams & Inesi, 2016), such attempts will not succeed if each party cannot shake off their own biases to adopt the other party's perspective. ...
Article
When interpersonal transgressions occur, the involved parties try to understand what occurred and how justice should be restored. However, research has documented that victims and transgressors often diverge in their accounts of what transpired. In this paper, I review and summarize empirical research on victims' and transgressors' asymmetric perceptions of interpersonal transgressions and the different justice-restoring responses each party subsequently desires. By conceptualizing transgressions in terms of the social roles of victim and transgressor, I contend that justice responses can be thought of as attempts to correct inequitable distributions of material and symbolic resources. This social exchange perspective enables us to understand each party's motives and how various justice responses might satisfy them. I argue that because of these asymmetric perspectives, reconciliation is difficult, and conflict is liable to be perpetuated rather than resolved.
... Importantly, the study only focused on revenge acts and did not include the preceding offenses, and so, does not allow for comparisons between the severity of the revenge act and the offense. Other studies focusing on perception biases (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997) only focused on offenses and did not include revenge acts. In sum, empirical support for the existence of a perception bias as depicted in theoretical reflections is lacking as studies have not included targets' and avengers' ratings of both the offense and the ensuing act of revenge. ...
Article
Full-text available
Theoretical reflections suggest that avengers and targets of revenge have self-serving perception biases when judging the severity of revenge acts and preceding offenses. Empirical research investigating such biases has so far focused on either the offense or the revenge act and may have confounded a perception bias with a situational selection bias (i.e., avengers and targets selecting different events in self-serving ways, so that there may be actual, as opposed to perceptual, differences in severity). The current research circumvents this shortcoming by empirically investigating this perception bias by assessing avengers' and targets' severity scores of both the offense and the revenge act, and comparing these scores with severity scores of independent raters. Results show that although there is a situational selection bias, there is also a perception bias for both avengers and targets: Both avengers and targets believe that the other person's act is worse than their own act. This perception bias may explain the existence of perpetuating revenge cycles.
... Thus, an additional moderator for the guilt inductions was tested that, theoretically, should mirror the gender results: national identification as an American. Because harm to the self is perceived as particularly severe and illegitimate (Baumeister et al., 1990;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997), those with a high level of national identification might be more affected by knowledge of a harmed veteran than those with a low level of national identification because they might more readily identify the veteran as an ingroup member (i.e., part of the self). Thus, similar to men (vs. ...
Article
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at heightened risk for interfacing with the United States legal system as criminal defendants. Two experiments were used to test the hypothesis that American mock jurors would punish a veteran (vs. a civilian) with PTSD for a violent crime less harshly because of their own collective guilt (i.e., the guilt felt for the transgressions of one's in-group) about the veteran's suffering due to war. The participants were United States citizens recruited online (n = 174) who completed a mock-juror experiment involving a violent assault committed by either a veteran or a civilian with PTSD. As predicted, jurors were more lenient toward the veteran (vs. the civilian). For male mock jurors this was explained by their collective guilt for the veteran's war-related suffering. A second study experimentally induced individual and collective guilt about veteran defendants, finding that mock jurors (n = 533) who are less likely to share a salient in-group identity with the veteran (i.e., women, people with lower national identification with the United States) can be induced to feel the requisite guilt to exhibit leniency toward a veteran. Thus, veterans suffering from PTSD may receive more lenient punishment because they elicit a sense of collective guilt in legal decision-makers.
... Similarly, Baumeister and colleagues (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997) have demonstrated that victims are more likely than offenders to perceive offenses as severe, as part of an overall pattern of provocation, and to view offenders' intentions as incomprehensible. Offenders, in contrast, are more likely to focus on happy endings, to deny negative consequences, to justify their offenses, and to point to mitigating circumstances. ...
Article
Full-text available
Given the demonstrated psychological, physical, and social benefits of forgiveness, it is striking that there are still strong impediments to its attainment. In this paper, we introduce the multi-dimensional construct of forgiveness aversion, an offense-specific motivational state based on perceived forgiveness risks. The construct and our proposed measure (the Forgiveness Aversion Scale) are composed of three related dimensions: unreadiness, self-protection, and face concerns. Unreadiness refers to the ongoing emotional turmoil that keeps victims from sincerely forgiving. Self-protection refers to the concerns about how offenders will interpret forgiveness. Finally, face concerns reflect victims’ concerns for their reputation. Four studies were completed to develop a state measure of forgiveness aversion through correlation, structural equations modeling, longitudinal analysis, and a hypothetical scenario experiment. Results of four studies reveal differential predictors of the three dimensions of forgiveness aversion and demonstrate that our understanding of the forgiveness process and impediments thereto is enhanced by addressing situation-specific impediments to forgiveness.
... Given the difficulties of experimentally examining the psychological experience of failed humor (Francis et al. 1999), the present study elicited autobiographical narratives in which participants recounted interpersonal encounters in which they had used humor and it had either failed (failed humor condition) or succeeded (successful humor condition). Autobiographical narratives have proven useful in studying a range of phenomena that resist laboratory simulation, such as romantic losses and rejections (Baumesiter et al. 1993), hurt feelings (Leary et al. 1998), and victim and perpetrator memories (Baumesiter et al. 1990;Stillwell and Baumeister 1997). Moreover, because ''humor is a specific and easily recognizable form of interaction,'' it is particularly amenable to recall-based methods such as autobiographical narratives (Francis et al. 1999, p. 156). ...
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to investigate failed interpersonal affect regulation through the lens of humor. We investigated individual differences that influenced people's affective and cognitive responses to failed humor and their willingness to persist in the interpersonal regulation of positive affect after a failed attempt. Using well-established autobiographical narrative methods and surveys, we collected data at two time points. All participants (n = 127) received identical surveys at time 1. At time 2, they were randomly assigned to complete a narrative about either successful or failed humor as well as a second survey. Using moderated regression analyses and SEM, we found significant differences between our failed and successful humor conditions. Specifically, individual differences, including gender, affective perspective taking, and humor self-efficacy, were associated with negative reactions to failed humor and the willingness of individuals to persist in the interpersonal regulation of positive affect. Moreover, affective perspective taking moderated the effect of gender in both the failed and successful humor conditions. Our results suggest that failed humor is no laughing matter. Understanding individuals' willingness to continue in attempts to regulate the affect of others contributes to the comprehension of an understudied phenomenon that has implications for interpersonal behavior in organizations such as helping, group decision making, and intragroup conflict. Studies of interpersonal affect regulation often focus on people's ability to successfully regulate others' emotions. In contrast, this is the first quantitative study to explore factors that influence individual's willingness to persist in interpersonal affect regulation after failure, and to investigate how individual differences influence the personal outcomes associated with failed attempts.
... In contrast, ''victims'' often maximize in their memories the harm imposed on them, such as to attribute perpetrators' intentions as malicious and emphasize negative outcomes and consequences (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1990;Mikula, Athenstaedt, Heschgl, & Heimgartner, 1998). The same memory biases have been observed in the recall of hypothetical stories where participants were randomly assigned to identify with either the perpetrator or the victim (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
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Narrative entails an active act of sense making through which individuals discern meaning from their experiences in line with their cultural expectations. In this article, we outline a theoretical model to demonstrate that narrative can be simultaneously used to examine cognitive processes underlying remembering on the one hand and to study the process of meaning-making that holds implications for self and well-being on the other. We argue that these two approaches, oftentimes overlapping and inseparable, provide critical means to understand the central role of culture in shaping memory and self-identity. We further demonstrate that the integration of culture in narrative research can, in turn, greatly enrich our understanding of the cognitive and social underpinnings of narrative.
... Even when objectively justified, resentment has detrimental effects when it elicits disproportionate punitive reactions, which foster an escalation of retaliations. Despite R's goal of inflicting a punishment proportionate to the wrong, retaliation implies the risk of inequitableness because victims and perpetrators typically disagree on the seriousness, intentionality, or excusability of a wrong (e.g., Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
The widespread assumption that anger is a response to wrongdoing and motivates people to sanction it, as well as the lack of distinction between resentment and indignation, obscure notable differences among these three emotions in terms of their specific beliefs, goals, and action tendencies, their nonmoral or moral character, and the kinds of moral claim implied. We provide a cognitive-motivational analysis of anger, resentment, and indignation, showing that, while sharing a common core, they are distinguishable from one another because they comprise nonoverlapping belief–goal compounds. We also emphasize the usefulness of applying a belief–goal analysis to kin emotions because, by comparison, one can sharpen the analysis and identify the distinctive features of each of them.
... In contrast, ''victims'' often maximize in their memories the harm imposed on them, such as to attribute perpetrators' intentions as malicious and emphasize negative outcomes and consequences (e.g., Mikula, Athenstaedt, Heschgl, & Heimgartner, 1998). The same memory biases have been observed in the recall of hypothetical stories where participants were randomly assigned to identify with either the perpetrator or the victim (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
This review introduces our special issue, which presents a variety of papers with explicit assumptions of how narrative methods are used in cognitive and personality psychology studies of autobiographical narratives. We begin this review with an examination of how narrative is conceptualized in terms of reflecting and influencing a sense of self that is sculpted via social interaction. After explicating these constructs more carefully, we turn to an analysis of narrative methods, examining how different methodologies of narrative coding take on certain assumptions, either implicitly or explicitly, regarding narrative, self, and social interaction.
... Use of outside observers to rate participant responsibility for the offense helped demonstrate that participants in the Self-Exonerating cluster did likely hold significant responsibility for the targeted offense, but there was nonetheless an observer-rated difference in responsibility for participants in the Self-Exonerating cluster compared to the other two clusters. Whether observers were responding to genuinely lower responsibility or whether they were responding to a defensive autobiographical narrative bias (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997) remains an issue that can be examined in future research. For example, researchers could require participants to respond to additional prompts about their transgression, such as descriptions of their own responsibility and the influence of external factors on their hurtful behavior. ...
Article
Studies examining individual differences associated with self-forgiveness have tended to include measures that confound self-forgiveness with other hedonic traits, that is, the ability to release negative emotion following failure. In this paper we used cluster analysis to distinguish genuine self-forgiveness from simply letting oneself off the hook via self-exoneration. Cluster analysis revealed three patterns of responding to interpersonal offenses: self-forgiving (high responsibility and end-state self-forgiveness and low self-condemnation), self-condemning (high responsibility and self-condemnation and low end-state self-forgiveness), and self-exonerating (high end-state self-forgiveness and low responsibility and self-condemnation). Comparisons among the clustering solution groups allowed for examination of personality traits associated with individual differences in responses to transgressions. The self-forgiving and self-exonerating clusters largely did not differ on traits (e.g., self-compassion, neuroticism) associated with hedonic wellbeing. However, interpersonal functioning personality traits did distinguish the three response patterns. The self-forgiving cluster had lower vulnerable narcissism compared to the self-exonerating and self-condemning clusters. In addition, the self-exonerating cluster had lower empathetic concern compared to the self-condemning cluster. Our findings provide evidence for three types of responses to transgressions and insight into the individual differences associated with each of these response patterns.
... Future work may explore whether individuals prompted to write about their own infidelity experience avoid using the moral language, which was identified as central to the infidelity prototype, and instead use peripheral features to focus on justifications for their actions. The previous literature finds individuals' accounts of one's own transgressions tend to utilize a number of self-serving biases and individuals tend to downplay their problematic behaviors (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). An interesting avenue for future work will be to further explore whether individuals discuss and evaluate infidelity differently after engaging in infidelity. ...
Article
The current research tested whether the concept of infidelity is prototypically organized and whether laypeople's conceptualizations of infidelity are consistent with how researchers have operationalized this construct. Across 4 studies, results indicated that infidelity is indeed prototypically organized as individuals are able to list and rate how central certain features are to the infidelity construct. Furthermore, there was evidence that the centrality ratings influenced how individuals processed information in a series of memory tasks and narratives about infidelity experiences. Laypeople are less likely than researchers to consider the presence of particular behaviors (i.e., flirting, kissing, and sexual intercourse) as defining qualities of infidelity. Instead, laypeople focus more on the concealment of behaviors and the resulting emotional fallout from infidelity.
... Self-defensive maneuvers are not monopoly of shame. People also defend themselves from guilt (Miceli & Castelfranchi, 1998) by denying the intentionality of the misdeed (e.g., Baumeister & Wotman, 1992), downplaying its negative consequences (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997), and derogating their victims (Zechmeister & Romero, 2002) so as to represent the wrongdoing as "deserved" by them. ...
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Although most researchers maintain that shame and guilt are distinct emotions, the debate on their differences is still open. We aim to show that some of the current distinctions between shame and guilt need to be redrawn, and their adaptive and social implications need to be revisited. We suggest the following distinguishing criteria: the kind of self-evaluation involved (inadequacy versus harmfulness); one’s focus on the perceived discrepancy between actual and ideal self versus one’s focus on the perceived responsibility for one’s fault; and consequently the different domains of self-esteem involved. Although these criteria have been in part suggested or alluded to in the relevant literature, we use and integrate them with each other in a novel way. This allows to better distinguish between shame and guilt, as well as to account for their possible coexistence or the shift from one emotion to the other.
... Second, victims and perpetrators have opposing perspectives about when an apology should be offered. In part, APOLOGY AND FORGIVENESS 4 victims simply focus on different aspects of a transgression than do perpetrators (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). Also, people have different ideas about what type of offense should be apologised for. ...
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Research largely supports the apology-forgiveness cycle, a process in which perpetrators’ post-transgression apologies are reciprocated with victims’ forgiveness. This cycle is often facilitated by the mere provision of an apology. Yet, there are times in which apologies may be rejected. We hypothesised that when apologies matched victims’ apology preferences (i.e., congruent apologies), victims would be more likely to accept them and self-report higher levels of forgiveness. Using an autobiographical transgression-recall approach, participants (n = 102) provided self-report ratings on the apology they preferred receiving, the severity of the transgression, the type of apology they actually received from perpetrators, whether or not they accepted the apology offered to them, and forgiveness. Victims were more likely to accept apologies and report higher levels of forgiveness when perpetrators offered apologies that were congruent with victims’ preferred apologies, particularly apologies that met victims’ needs for empathy. The findings provide support for the apology-forgiveness cycle, but also signify the importance of delivering apologies that meet the psychological needs of victims.
... This prediction is rooted in psychological research on conflict and reconciliation. Such research demonstrates that relative to perpetrators, victims perceive transgressions as more severe and less comprehensible, and attribute greater responsibility for them to the perpetrator (Baumeister et al., 1990;Kearns and Fincham, 2005;Stillwell and Baumeister, 1997). Indeed, Adams and Inesi (2016) suggest this to represent a "fundamental asymmetry" between how victims and perpetrators interpret transgressions. ...
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Apologies are assumed to be an effective pathway to the restoration of victims of torts. Accordingly, initiatives to facilitate their provision in legal contexts are currently being advocated. A crucial question, however, is whether the apologies that perpetrators provide in these contexts may live up to such expectations. Do perpetrators' apologies in response to torts convey the content that victims desire, and how may this affect their remedial effectiveness? The present research examined what content victims desire, and perpetrators provide in apology in response to personal injury incidents. In two studies, we demonstrate that (a) perpetrators provide less comprehensive apologies than victims desire, and (b) their apologies thereby are less effective at restoring them. These differences were explained by their differing perception of torts, such that perpetrators regard their transgressions as less severe and intentional, and themselves as less blameworthy than victims do, and consequently offer less comprehensive apologies than victims desire. Therefore, subjectiveness in victims' and perpetrators' perception of torts may undermine the remedial effectiveness of legal apology.
... This provides a very partial view of a situation, particularly when interests conflict. Literature on victim vs. perpetrator differences in assessments of wrongdoing suggests that accounts differ in ways that reflect the interests of each: for the perpetrator it is to downplay the wrong and contextualize it, whereas for the victim it is to magnify it and see it as essentially incomprehensible (Baumeister et al. 1990, Stillwell & Baumeister 1997 And so, in their own way, some of the failures of understanding that we see in the literature provide evidence in favor of the effectiveness of perspective taking. Of course, the literature shows merely that there is a negative correlation between failing to take another's perspective and not understanding that person very well. ...
... Kneer (2018) partially reinstates it and emphasizes that triggering role-specific imagination can require extensive preliminary exercises. However, there is some evidence from imagination-based experiments that suggests that the proposed hypotheses are on track: Stillwell and Baumeister (1997), for example, found that participants imagining themselves in a perpetrator role focused more heavily on mitigating circumstances and frequently invoked mental state information, whereas victims emphasized the severity of the offense. Studies by Exline, Yali, and Lobel (1998) as well as Adams and Inesi (2016;experiments 3 and 5) suggest that when individuals are placed into an imagined perpetrator instead of the victim role, they see their transgressions as less harmful, frequent, intentional, and malicious. ...
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When two actors have exactly the same mental states but one happens to harm another person (unlucky actor) and the other one does not (lucky actor), the latter elicits milder moral judgment among bystanders. We hypothesized that the social role from which transgressions are perceived would moderate this outcome effect. In three preregistered experiments (N = 950), we randomly assigned participants to imagine and respond to moral scenarios as actor (i.e., perpetrator), victim, or bystander. The results revealed highly similar outcome effects on moral judgment across social roles. However, as predicted, the social role moderated the strength of the outcome effect on interpersonal goals pertaining to agency and communion. Although in agreement about the blameworthiness of lucky and unlucky actors, victims’ agency and communion were more sensitive to the outcome severity than perpetrators’ agency and communion, with bystanders’ outcome sensitivity falling in between. Outcome severity affected agency and communion directly instead of being mediated by moral judgment. We discuss the possibility that outcome severity raises normative expectations regarding interaction in a transgression’s aftermath that are unrelated to moral considerations.
... Kneer (2018) partially reinstates it and emphasizes that triggering role-specific imagination can require extensive preliminary exercises. However, there is some evidence from imagination-based experiments that suggests that the proposed hypotheses are on track: Stillwell and Baumeister (1997), for example, found that participants imagining themselves in a perpetrator role focused more heavily on mitigating circumstances and frequently invoked mental state information, whereas victims emphasized the severity of the offense. Studies by Exline, Yali, and Lobel (1998) as well as Adams and Inesi (2016;experiments 3 and 5) suggest that when individuals are placed into an imagined perpetrator instead of the victim role, they see their transgressions as less harmful, frequent, intentional, and malicious. ...
Article
When two actors have the same mental states but one happens to harm another person (unlucky actor) and the other one does not (lucky actor), the latter elicits milder moral judgment. To understand how this outcome effect would affect post-harm interactions between victims and perpetrators, we examined how the social role from which transgressions are perceived moderates the outcome effect, and how outcome effects on moral judgments transfer to agentic and communal interpersonal goals. Three vignette experiments (N = 950) revealed similar outcome effects on moral judgment across social roles. In contrast, outcome effects on agentic and communal goals varied by social role: Victims exhibited the strongest outcome effects and perpetrators the weakest, with bystanders falling in between. Moral judgment did not mediate the effects of outcome severity on interpersonal goals. We discuss the possibility that outcome severity raises normative expectations regarding post-harm interactions that are unrelated to moral considerations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Indeed, in their recollections of their transgressions, perpetrators (vs. victims) are more likely to deny the adverse consequences of their offense, describe the transgression as an isolated incident, and reference external and mitigating circumstances for their behavior (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997;Zechmeister & Romero, 2002). These portrayals serve to minimize the negativity of the behavior and disrupt the connection between the self and the behavior, thus protecting perpetrators' positive self-views. ...
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Although apologies are effective at promoting reconciliation, perpetrators often choose not to apologize because doing so can be threatening to the self. We hypothesized that dispositional self-protection would be negatively associated with willingness to apologize, but only when the transgression pertained to the self rather than another person. Only in that case would self-positivity be threatened, thereby activating the self-protection motive. In addition, we hypothesized that the negative association between self-protection and willingness to apologize for self-referent offenses would be serially mediated by responsibility-taking and guilt. This would be so because perpetrators can self-protect by lowering their felt responsibility and, in turn, reduce guilt for the transgression. The results were consistent with the hypotheses. We discuss implications of this motivational account for unwillingness to apologize.
... One explanation concerns what Exline and Baumeister (2000) called disagreement with the charge; individuals who refused to apologize believed that victims' charges were unfair or excessive, and simply did not feel sorry for their behaviors. When giving account for apology refusals, multiple respondents wrote "I thought it was an overreaction" or "… I was only stating the truth," which is also consistent with Stillweli and Baumeister (1997)'s finding that transgressors tended to distort information about transgressions by downplaying the severity of the offense and responsibility. Some individuals considered their victims at least partially responsible for the offense and they merely acted when provoked. ...
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Prior research has shown that greater willingness to apologize for an offense is prompted by greater guilt but lesser shame. Yet little work examined whether apologies indeed resolve moral emotions. This study investigated how the absence of apology psychologically affects harm-doers when they recall a past offense. Undergraduates (N = 284) were randomly assigned to one of the four experimental conditions wherein they recalled a past incident in which they hurt, offended, angered, or had some other negative effect on another person. Harm-doers who intended but failed to apologize reported greater PFQ-2 state guilt and shame, compared to others who refused to apologize or whose apologies were rejected. However, similar results were not found for ESS state shame. Results suggest that failing to apologize may impede transgressors from relieving moral emotional burdens, but only for those who intended to apologize.
... In this study, participants recalled a transgression they committed against another person and then completed an implicit measure of guilt using the SC-IAT (Karpinski & Steinman, 2006), as well as an explicit measure of guilt and blame acceptance. Note that while the recall of a transgression implied to an extent an admission of wrongdoing, the study was premised on the view that participants would still be able to diminish responsibility or downplay severity if they wanted to be defensive about it, consistent with research on the recall bias observed in offender accounts (Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). ...
Article
Defensive responses to transgressions can have a negative impact on decision‐making within government and organizations, on relationships, and even an individual’s well‐being. Transgressors who are defensive are less likely to acknowledge or appreciate the extent of harm caused, and their responsibility in having contributed to it or in helping to repair it. It is therefore important to understand what situational factors increase or reduce defensiveness and, thus, offer solutions for those trying to foster responsibility‐taking by individuals in relationships, organizations, and society. This paper presents two studies exploring what underpins defensive responses in the context of transgressions. In Study 1 (N = 202), participants recalled an interpersonal transgression, and in Study 2 (N = 143), omnivorous participants watched a guilt‐eliciting documentary about meat production practices. Both studies demonstrate that defensiveness increases in response to social/moral threat. Further, Study 2 demonstrates that this defensiveness can be reduced by addressing the underlying threat to social/moral identity via value affirmation, encouraging moral engagement, and repair.
... Another group of studies has addressed another set of cognitive techniques that involve selective memory, or biased recall that enables actors to avoid perceiving an inconsistency between their action and their self-concept. For example, actors tend to omit facts when recalling a past transgression that highlights the severity of the transgression and their responsibility (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990;Kearns & Fincham, 2005;Stillwell & Baumeister, 1997). They also tend to selectively recall facts so that prior lies seem closer to the truth (Colwell et al., 2011;Polage, 2017Polage, , 2019 and forget moral rules after engaging in acts that violate them (Shu & Gino, 2012;Shu et al., 2011). ...
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Negative workplace behavior has received substantial research attention over the past several decades. Although we have learned a lot about the consequences of negative behavior for its victims and third-party observers, a less understood but equally important research question pertains to the consequences for bad actors: How does engaging in negative behavior impact one’s thoughts, feelings, and subsequent behaviors? Moreover, do organizational members experience costs or benefits from engaging in negative acts? We address these questions with an integrative review of empirical findings on various actor-centric consequences of a wide range of negative behaviors. We organize these findings into five dominant theoretical perspectives: affective, psychological-needs, relational, psychological-resources, and cognitive-dissonance perspectives. For each perspective, we provide an overview of the theoretical arguments, summarize findings of relevant studies underlying it, and discuss observed patterns and contradictory findings. By doing so, we provide a very tentative answer to our initial questions, contending that engaging in negative acts is a two-edged sword for actors and its costs seem to slightly prevail over its benefits. Nevertheless, we make this preliminary conclusion based upon an incomplete knowledge base. In order to further our understanding of actor-centric outcomes of negative behavior, we also identify several important research gaps and needed future research directions.
Article
In Western societies in the first decade of the 21st century, a majority of adults spend nearly half of their waking hours working as paid employees in private or public organizations. From the moment that an individual applies for a job to the moment that the person moves on to another opportunity, is terminated from the position, or retires, there are abundant opportunities for hurt feelings. We define hurt feelings as a form of emotional distress that may be experienced predominantly as sadness and depression but also may include sensations of anger, anxiety, and guilt. May and Jones (2007) distinguished between introjective hurt (feeling sad, engaging in self-blame, and wondering what one did wrong) and retaliatory hurt (yelling at, blaming, confronting, and feeling angry toward the offender) and suggested the two types have different dynamics. Yet, such feelings may be mixed, as we discuss later. The central element of hurt feelings is a sense that another person devalues the relationship (Leary, Springer, Negell, Ansell, & Evans, 1998), has rejected the self (Fitness, 2001), or has transgressed (Vangelisti, 2001). Hurt feelings can be painful in any type of relationship, but hurt feelings may have particular intensity in the workplace. Although workplace relationships tend to be less close and personal than romantic relationships or friendships formed elsewhere, social acceptance in the workplace is associated with material as well as emotional well-being.
Chapter
To understand how Darwinism affected the literary imagination, one needs to understand how Darwinism was processed imaginatively by the scientists, philosophers, and social reformers who disseminated it. This chapter analyzes early evolutionary thinkers like Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and Ernst Haeckel. No early evolutionary thinker could transform Darwinism into untroubled mythology. But they followed universal features of myth-making: turning evolution into something more comprehensible, orderly, spectacular, and purposeful; translating natural selection into human social terms, as an evil to fight or a struggle toward good; putting humanity back at the center of nature; and devising strategies for circumventing materialism and randomness. These universal features were modulated by cultural ideas, values, and personality differences. Keen minds reached opposite conclusions about nature, shaping enduring myths.
Article
Moral judgments about interpersonal transgressions are shaped by attributions about the actor’s mental state (intent), responsibility, and harmful consequences. Curiously, most research has investigated these judgments from a third-party perspective, often overlooking perceptions of the individuals directly involved in the transgression. We address this by reviewing research on how victims and transgressors involved in interpersonal transgressions form judgments about the transgressor’s intent, responsibility, and how much harm they caused, and the ways in which their judgments diverge from one another. Our review indicates that both cognitive biases and motivation give rise to asymmetries. We argue that future research could investigate not only social perceptions but also meta-perceptions, and that a better understanding of the content and causes of divergent interpersonal perceptions in this domain will lead to a more complete understanding of how to resolve conflicts.
Article
Following interpersonal transgressions, both victim and offender can experience psychological loss due to threatened needs for agency and moral-social identity. Moral repair is the process by which these losses are restored. Rather than involving only intra-individual static processes, research is starting to recognize that moral repair is dyadic, reciprocal, and interactionist. It involves the victim and offender co-engaging with one another, reciprocally responding to the other’s psychological needs, and co-constructing a shared understanding of what has occurred, their relationship, and a way forward. Each of these steps represents periods of vulnerability where the losses of a transgression can be repaired - or exacerbated.
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Victims often perceive aggressive behaviors as being more harmful than do perpetrators—a so-called victim-perpetrator asymmetry. We examined whether this victim-perpetrator asymmetry was especially strong for individuals who were high in trait hostility. In two studies—one where participants recalled actual aggressive experiences and one where participants took the perspective of a person in a vignette—we found that victims who were high in trait hostility, relative to those who were low, viewed aggressive behaviors as being most harmful. We found somewhat inconsistent effects for whether perpetrators viewed the aggressive behaviors as more justified than victims did and whether trait hostility moderated this judgment. Collectively, the current findings show that victims who are high in trait hostility are especially likely to view an aggressive behavior as harmful, which potentially makes conflict resolution difficult for these individuals and increases the likelihood they would retaliate.
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Forgiveness and reconciliation as processes used in therapy can have a significant impact on improving relationships with other people and a better understanding of their own feelings, motives and actions. The use of these phenomena in therapy is still the object of research, most of which confirm its positive impact on the relationship between the person who forgives and the one which he forgives. In order to better understand this process, it is important to pay attention to various stages of forgiveness and reflect on the psychological issues. Forgiveness is a difficult process, which in the ordinary meaning can be associated negatively. For many people, the decision of forgiveness is associated with reliving their harm, which makes this process extremely hard for them. It turns out, however, that the confrontation with negative experiences can be beneficial, because it allows to reduce negative emotions, attitudes and behavior against the person, repair relations and change the way of thinking
Article
The magnitude gap refers to the consistent differences in recall between victims and perpetrators (Baumeister, Stillwell, and Wotman, 1990). Victims recall a series of provocations leading up to an incident as well as the consequences afterwards, whereas perpetrators recall an incident as bracketed in time, omitting previous provocations and later consequences. Victims omit situational influences and recall more emotion, whereas perpetrators recall incidents as resulting from situational factors, often with the victim overreacting. This chapter introduces new research on the magnitude gap in free recall, with a focus on metamemory. In free recall, victim accounts were almost 20% longer than perpetrator accounts, showing significantly more description of the aftermath, more remembered conversation, and more quantitative detail, whereas perpetrators' accounts included more justification for their behavior. The metamemory analysis revealed that time was experienced as slowing down in a majority of victim incidents but that there was no reported change in experienced time with a majority of perpetrator incidents, though nearly one-third of the perpetrator incidents led to the experience of time moving more quickly. In addition, with victim incidents the most frequently reported reason for retrieval was that these incidents still generated emotion. This chapter applies the experimental findings on the magnitude gap to truth commissions, where victims and perpetrators confront each other with discrepant accounts of the same events. The chapter focuses on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as an exemplar for the twenty-eight national truth commissions conducted to date. During the TRC, victims of apartheid recalled events to document the crimes committed against them and to seek reparations, whereas perpetrators recalled events to detail the crimes they committed during apartheid and to obtain amnesty. Consistent with the experimental literature, the TRC hearings revealed dramatic and predictable discrepancies between the memories of perpetrators and victims. Perpetrators bracketed their criminal incidents within narrow time frames and in the context of doing their jobs; victims recalled the incidents as an extended series of events that continued to generate emotion. Moreover, many victims did not believe the discrepancies between their own personal memories and those of the perpetrators, and they went on record stating that the perpetrators failed to disclose fully, potentially denying them amnesty. Research on the magnitude gap can help explain the profound differences in recall between victims and perpetrators during truth commissions, ultimately contributing to the overall effectiveness of these commissions.
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Scholars have disagreed about Joseph Conrad’s work for more than a century. He has been broadly interpreted as both a moral relativist and a moralist. This chapter uses a combination of personality psychology, evolutionary literary theory, and biographical research to explain the contrasting impressions. Conrad lived during a time when intellectuals first faced the psychological challenges of Darwinian evolution. Because of his imaginative neuroticism and extreme conscientiousness, he was particularly disturbed by the revelation that nature is amoral. But he responded with unusual fortitude. He imagined himself as a sympathetic observer of the amoral cosmos, dedicated to simple moral values that he saw as part of human nature. Both his seeming moral relativism and his seeming moralism were thus naturalistic. He neither imposed human morality on the natural world nor discarded morality from human nature. Conrad’s most famous work, Heart of Darkness, enacts his remarkable balance between human psychological needs and non-mythological reality. It is an allegory of facing amoral nature, providing mythic texture for the post-Darwinian world.
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Victims of many types of transgressions may delay voicing accusations of wrongdoing. Across seven studies and a within-paper meta-analysis, we examine whether these victims pay a social cost and, if so, how they can reduce it. We find that people perceive victims who delay (vs. do not delay) voicing accusations to have less psychological standing to accuse their transgressors. People therefore perceive such victims as lacking in integrity-based trustworthiness and, often, in benevolence-based trustworthiness as well. People consequently report greater intentions to avoid such victims, trust them less in an economic game with money at stake, and are less willing to hire them. The findings collectively highlight the difficulty that victims face in moving from silence to voice. We further draw on the triangle model of excuses (e.g., Schlenker, 1997) to identify attributions that attenuate the social cost of victims’ delayed accusations.
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Applied studies that attempt to facilitate forgiveness currently provide the only direct evidence about the effects of forgiveness on well-being. This chapter discusses applied research by reviewing the evidence it provides on the impact of forgiveness on well-being. Research on forgiveness is growing and steadily lending weight to the case for the importance of forgiveness in maintaining and promoting well-being. The chapter offers a much expanded view for research on facilitating forgiveness. It examines the implications of positive psychology for attempts to facilitate forgiveness; then it identifies the premises underlying the approach offered. Finally, it discusses the facilitation of forgiveness in terms of two dimensions, breadth of reach and intensity, and relates them to delivery formats. A next step is to develop detailed protocols for the levels of intervention identified and to investigate the efficacy of each, not only in preventing distress but also in enhancing optimal human functioning.
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This article examines moral hypocrisy and the self-serving bias (SSB) in the sexual infidelity context. We found evidence of self-serving attributions that occur between primary relationship partners following sexual betrayals. Specifically, we found that sexual infidelity perpetrators (a) blamed their primary dyadic partners (i.e., victims) for infidelities significantly more than those victims blamed themselves for such infidelities, (b) blamed the surrounding circumstances for infidelities significantly more than their victims did, and (c) rated the emotional impact of infidelities on their victims as significantly less than victims' ratings of such impact. Moreover, we found that participants with prior experience as both sexual infidelity perpetrators and victims displayed "sexual hypocrisy" by judging others more harshly than themselves for sexually unfaithful behavior. Our findings demonstrate that personality variables associated with sexual infidelity (narcissism, sexual narcissism, avoidant attachment, and primary psychopathy) are also relevant to self-serving attributions in the sexual infidelity context.
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Intergroup contact is a known remedy for complicated intergroup relations. At the same time, contact is rare in postconflict settings. In the present article, we examine whether exposure to narratives about moral exemplars (i.e., members of a perpetrator group who acted morally and in opposition to the passivity or aggression displayed by majority) could increase openness to contact among historical adversaries. In Study 1 (N = 73), presenting members of a historical perpetrator group with information about ingroup moral exemplars led to a decrease of prejudice towards individuals from a historical victim group, which, in turn, resulted in higher openness to contact with them. In Study 2 (N = 100) and 3 (N = 92), exposure to narratives about outgroup moral exemplars in a historically victimized group increased openness to contact with members of a perpetrator group. These effects were mediated by a decrease in prejudice (Studies 2 and 3) and by an increase in trust towards historical perpetrators (Study 2).
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From the time of its discovery, evolutionary theory has been shaped into dramatic narratives with human goals and value structures. Why has it been treated this way, often by its scientific proponents? Modern evolutionary psychology provides an answer. By appealing to universal human concerns, stories help map out the physical and social world, imbuing it with positive and negative values, visions of desirable and undesirable ways of life. Evolutionary theory contains no such imaginative mapping. As a nonmythological account of humanity, it poses a universal challenge to the human mind, even as it stimulates by revealing unimagined facts. Darwin's contemporaries were the first to negotiate that balance. The new human self-narratives they created can help us understand the challenge we still face. In this article, I analyze two such narratives: one in T. H. Huxley's scientific monograph Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) and one in Arthur Conan Doyle's adventure novel The Lost World (1912).
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Previous research has demonstrated that people recall their past in ways that exaggerate its consistency with their current condition. It is argued that whether people perceive stability or change in themselves depends, in part, on the theory they invoke to reconstruct their past. Two studies, with 106 undergraduates, addressed the impact of a potentially invalid theory of change on the recall of personal histories. Some Ss participated in a study-skills improvement program that promised more than it delivered. Ss initially evaluated their study skills and then were randomly assigned either to a waiting list control condition or to the study skills program. Three weeks later, all Ss were asked to recall as accurately as possible their initial skills evaluation. Program participants recalled their evaluations as being worse than they had actually reported; waiting list Ss exhibited no systematic bias in recall. Program participants also reported greater improvement in study skills and expected better final exam grades than did waiting list Ss. Actual grades did not differ in either study. Nonetheless, 6 mo later program participants overestimated their academic performance for the term during which the program was conducted. Results support the hypothesis that people can claim support for invalid theories of change by reconstructing their pasts. (23 ref)
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People's efforts to understand their experiences often take the form of constructing narratives (stories) out of them, and this article offers framework for the motivations that may guide the construction of stories. Evidence about the nature, importance, and pervasiveness of narrative thinking is reviewed. Next, motivations are considered that may guide narrative thought, both in terms of interpersonal manipulation and in terms of wanting to make sense of experiences. Regarding the latter, four needs for meaning are proposed as guiding narrative thought. First, people interpret experiences relative to purposes, which may be either objective goals or subjective fulfillment states. Second, people seek value and justification by constructing stories that depict their actions and intentions as right and good. Third, people seek a sense of efficacy by making stories that contain information about how to exert control. Fourth, people seek a sense of self-worth by making stories that portray themselves as attractive and competent. Within this framework, narratives are effective means of making sense of experiences.
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Unreciprocated romantic attraction was explored by comparing narrative accounts. Unrequited love emerged as a bilaterally distressing experience marked by mutual incomprehension and emotional interdependence. Would-be lovers looked back with both positive and intensely negative emotions, whereas rejectors were more uniformly negative in their accounts. Unlike rejectors, would-be lovers believed that the attraction had been mutual, that they had been led on, and that the rejection had never been communicated definitely. Rejectors depicted themselves as morally innocent but still felt guilty about hurting someone; many rejectors depicted the would-be lover's persistent efforts as intrusive and annoying. Rejectors constructed accounts to reduce guilt, whereas disappointed lovers constructed them to rebuild self-esteem. Rejectors saw would-be lovers as self-deceptive and unreasonable; would-be lovers saw rejectors as inconsistent and mysterious. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Subjects furnished autobiographical accounts of being angered (victim narratives) and of angering someone else (perpetrator narratives). The provoking behavior was generally portrayed by the perpetrator as meaningful and comprehensible, whereas the victim tended to depict it as arbitrary, gratuitous, or incomprehensible. Victim accounts portrayed the incident in a long-term context that carried lasting implications, especially of continuing harm, loss, and grievance. Perpetrator accounts tended to cast the incident as a closed, isolated incident that did not have lasting implications. Several findings fit a hypothesis that interpersonal conflicts may arise when a victim initially stifles anger and then finally responds to an accumulated series of provocations, whereas the perpetrator perceives only the single incident and regards the angry response as an unjustified overreaction. Victim and perpetrator roles are associated with different subjective interpretations.
Book
ATTRIBUTIONS, ACCOUNTS AND CLOSE RELATIONSHPIS documents attributional and accounts approaches to the study of close relationships. Issues of focus include communication pro- blems in marriage and their relationship with causal attri- butions; marital violence and its relationship with early learning experience; ego-defensive attribution and excuse- making in couples and with respect to medical problems; and attributions about transitions in relationships.
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This chapter explores the nature of stories of self, both as they are told and lived in social life. It examines the story form—or more formally, the structure of narrative accounts. It then describes the way narratives of the self are constructed within social life and the uses to which they are put. As story advances, it become increasingly clear that narratives of the self are not fundamentally possessions of the individual; rather they are products of social interchange—possessions of the socius. This analysis set the stage for a discussion of lived narrative. The chapter proposes the traditional concept of individual selves is fundamentally problematic. What have served as individual traits, mental processes, or personal characteristics can promisingly be viewed as the constituents of relational forms. The form of these relationships is that of the narrative sequence. Thus, by the end of story it can be found that the individual self has all but vanished into the world of relationship.
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A study was conducted to investigate vivid memories of a target past close relationship and the effects on vivid memories of the subject's sex, single/divorced status and level of mood depression. It was expected that females, divorced persons and persons high in mood depression wotild report relatively more vivid recall. Thirty-nine subjects between twenty-five and forty-five years of age were administered the Beck Depression Inventory and then a questionnaire pertaining to their recall of a target past close relationship and events associated with that relationship. The results supported the predictions that females and persons high in depression would report relatively vivid memories of a target past relationship; divorced persons did not differ from single persons in such reported recall. The contents of reported memories could be categorized into memories associated with beginnings, special occasions and endings; for example, a common beginning memory pertained to the first sexual encounter. Overall, the work is discussed in relation to previous research on `flashbulb' and autobiographical memory. The data generally are interpreted as revealing meaningful reflections on lost loves that may or may not contain a high degree of accuracy but that serve as benchmarks in people's constructions of their lives.
Article
Subjects (N = 119) wrote stories about successful or failed life change experiences. Stories reporting successful change attempts were more likely than stories reporting failed attempts to mention intense emotional experiences, external threats, and focal events that often culminated in crystallizations of discontent. These events were related to reevaluations of goals and life meaning and increased motivation to change. Social support, attributions of internal control, blaming external events for failure, and the development of a new sense of identity that incorporated the changed behavior were strongly associated with reports of successful change. Failure narratives were more likely than success narratives to describe change in terms of willpower and to indicate an active participation in maintaining the status quo. These results provide a glimpse at the phenomenology of life change attempts.
Article
This article explores the narratives that individuals construct about their romantic partners. The authors believe that individuals weave stories that encapsulate or defuse negativity, such as evidence of an intimate's faults. Such storytelling essentially masks feelings of uncertainty engendered by the specter of negativity and thus bolsters felt confidence. The paradigm used for examining narrative construction is described and the postulates or principles guiding the storytelling process are outlined. A discussion follows of how individuals integrate and defuse negativity within positive stories about their partners. The article concludes by exploring the content and structure of confidence-instilling narratives.
Article
Recent theoretical advances from social psychology, especially self‐awareness theory and action identification theory, are here applied to masochism. It is possible to consider mashochism as neither a form of self‐destruction nor a derivative of sadism. Instead, masochism may be a means of escaping from high‐level awareness of self as a symbolically mediated, temporally extended identity. Such awareness is replaced by focus on the immediate present and on bodily sensations, and sometimes by a low‐level awareness of self as an object. Evidence is reviewed indicating that the principal features of masochism (pain, bondage, and humiliation) help accomplish this hypothesized escape from high‐level self‐awareness. Historical evidence suggests that sexual masochism proliferated when Western culture became highly individualistic. This could mean that cultural emphasis on the autonomous, individual self increased the burdensome pressure of selfhood, leading to greater desires to escape from self masochistically.
Article
This research was based on the assumption that there are both male and female masochists and that the two groups may show slightly different patterns. Statistical analyses of anonymous letters to sex‐oriented magazines were used to explore these patterns; these scripts should be regarded as expressions of desire and imagination, not necessarily corresponding to actual behavior. Results suggest that male masochistic scripts exceed female ones in severity of pain, in aggregate humiliation, in status‐loss humiliation, in oral humiliation, in partner infidelity, in active participation by third persons, and in transvestism. Female masochistic scripts surpassed male ones in relative frequency of pain, in con‐textualizing pain as punishment for misdeeds in an ongoing relationship, in humiliation involving exhibitionistic display, in genital intercourse with partner, and in the presence of nonparticipating spectators. These differences can be interpreted in the context of cultural stereotypes of femininity and masculinity and in terms of masochism as a means of escape from identity.
Article
[This book] provides [a] portrait of chronic predatory offenders, problem police officers, and others with a demonstrated propensity for violent conduct. This revised edition explores the personal motives, attitudes, assumptions, and perceptions of men who are recurrently violent. How patterned and consistent is the violence of such men? What are the dynamics of their escalating encounters? What personal dispositions and orientations are most apt to lead to violence? "Violent Men" contains not only scholarly research on violence, but also a sense of the humanity of violent men. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
It is hypothesized that people possess implicit theories regarding the inherent consistency of their attributes, as well as a set of principles concerning the conditions that are likely to promote personal change or stability. The nature of these theories is discussed in the context of a study of beliefs about life-span development. It is then suggested that people use their implicit theories of self to construct their personal histories. This formulation is used to interpret the results of a wide-ranging set of studies of memory of personal attributes. It is concluded that implicit theories of stability and change can lead to biases in recall. The extent and practical implications of these biases are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
It is proposed that individuals develop story-like representations of their romantic partners that quell feelings of doubt engendered by their partners' faults. In Study 1, dating individuals were induced to depict their partners as rarely initiating disagreements over joint interests. Such conflict avoidance was then turned into a fault. In scaled questionnaires and open-ended narratives, low-conflict individuals then constructed images of conflict-engaging partners. These results suggest that storytelling depends on considerable flexibility in construal as low-conflict Ss possessed little evidence of conflict in their relationships. Study 2 further examined the construal processes underlying people's ability to transform the meaning of negativity in their stories (e.g., seeing virtues in faults). Paradoxically, positive representations of a partner may exist, not in spite of a partner's faults, but because of these imperfections. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
A hierarchical facet model of self-esteem proposed by R. J. Shavelson et al (see record 1978-30429-001) was partially tested in a previous study by J. S. Fleming and W. A. Watts (see record 1981-28061-001). Their 3 factors, which were labeled Self-Regard, Social Confidence, and School Abilities, corresponded to 3 of the 4 dimensions posited by Shavelson et al. Predictions of other individual-difference variables from these factors were also tested by correlational analysis. Improvements to the instrument led to a replication of their 3 factors plus 2 predicted physical factors: Physical Appearance and Physical Abilities. In the present study, with 259 undergraduates, a 2nd-order factor analysis yielded a single, superordinate factor of global self-esteem, supporting the hierarchical interpretation of the facet model. Construct validity was further examined by replication of the correlational findings of Fleming and Watts and by correlations with other measures of personality and adjustment, including a global measure of self-esteem: the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The facet model as presently operationalized measures dimensions of relevance for the intended population, but these dimensions are not so broadly defined as to be redundant with related constructs. (65 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Conducted a modified replication of a study by R. C. Anderson and J. W. Pichert (see record 1979-02802-001). 90 Ss (aged 15–55 yrs) read 3 stories, taking a particular perspective for each, recalled each story from that perspective and, either immediately or after 1 wk, recalled the stories again from a new perspective. Consistent with Anderson and Pichert's findings, Ss in the immediate condition showed a shift in recall as a function of retrieval perspective. However, in contrast to Anderson and Pichert, further results demonstrate that even though the retrieval framework operated selectively in making certain information more accessible for output, it was ultimately constrained by the accessibility of information as determined by the encoding framework. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This article reports on an initial attempt to improve our knowledge of the cognitive processes which are elicited by the perception of an unjust event. High school students were given a story describing an unfair treatment of a student by his teacher and were asked to place themselves either in the role of the unfairly treated student or in that of a non-affected fellow-student. They were then asked to write down all questions and thoughts coming to their minds in the described situation. The reported questions and thoughts were classified into three categories: attributions, action-oriented thoughts, and assessments and evaluations. Statistical analyses of the frequencies and the temporal sequence of occurrence of these categories of responses revealed that victims of an unjust event reported attributions and action-related thoughts more frequently and in an earlier position than non-affected observers. Assessments and evaluations, on the other hand, were more frequently reported by observers than by victims.
Article
This paper presents a general statistical methodology for the analysis of multivariate categorical data arising from observer reliability studies. The procedure essentially involves the construction of functions of the observed proportions which are directed at the extent to which the observers agree among themselves and the construction of test statistics for hypotheses involving these functions. Tests for interobserver bias are presented in terms of first-order marginal homogeneity and measures of interobserver agreement are developed as generalized kappa-type statistics. These procedures are illustrated with a clinical diagnosis example from the epidemiological literature.