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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sensitivity to Ingroup and Outgroup Norms in the Association Between Commonality and Morality

M. R.Goldring & L. Heiphetz
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 91, November 2020, 104025


Emerging research suggests that people infer that common behaviors are moral and vice versa.
The studies presented here investigated the role of group membership in inferences regarding
commonality and morality. In Study 1, participants expected a target character to infer that
behaviors that were common among their ingroup were particularly moral. However, the extent
to which behaviors were common among the target character’s outgroup did not influence
expectations regarding perceptions of morality. Study 2 reversed this test, finding that
participants expected a target character to infer that behaviors considered moral among their
ingroup were particularly common, regardless of how moral their outgroup perceived those
behaviors to be. While Studies 1-2 relied on fictitious behaviors performed by novel groups,
Studies 3-4 generalized these results to health behaviors performed by members of different
racial groups. When answering from another person’s perspective (Study 3) and from their own
perspective (Study 4), participants reported that the more common behaviors were among their
ingroup, the more moral those behaviors were. This effect was significantly weaker for
perceptions regarding outgroup norms, although outgroup norms did exert some effect in this
real-world context. Taken together, these results highlight the complex integration of ingroup
and outgroup norms in socio-moral cognition.

A pdf of the article can be found here.

In sum: Actions that are common among the ingroup are seen as particularly moral.  But actions that are common among the outgroup have little bearing on our judgments of morality.