Laura Niemi and Liane Young
Pers Soc Psychol Bull June 23, 2016
Why do victims sometimes receive sympathy for their suffering and at other times scorn and blame? Here we show a powerful role for moral values in attitudes toward victims. We measured moral values associated with unconditionally prohibiting harm (“individualizing values”) versus moral values associated with prohibiting behavior that destabilizes groups and relationships (“binding values”: loyalty, obedience to authority, and purity). Increased endorsement of binding values predicted increased ratings of victims as contaminated (Studies 1-4); increased blame and responsibility attributed to victims, increased perceptions of victims’ (versus perpetrators’) behaviors as contributing to the outcome, and decreased focus on perpetrators (Studies 2-3). Patterns persisted controlling for politics, just world beliefs, and right-wing authoritarianism. Experimentally manipulating linguistic focus off of victims and onto perpetrators reduced victim blame. Both binding values and focus modulated victim blame through victim responsibility attributions. Findings indicate the important role of ideology in attitudes toward victims via effects on responsibility attribution.
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