Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Compensation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Compensation. Show all posts

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Virtuous Victims

Jordan, Jillian J., and Maryam Kouchaki
Science Advances 7, no. 42 (October 15, 2021).


How do people perceive the moral character of victims? We find, across a range of transgressions, that people frequently see victims of wrongdoing as more moral than nonvictims who have behaved identically. Across 17 experiments (total n = 9676), we document this Virtuous Victim effect and explore the mechanisms underlying it. We also find support for the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, which proposes that people see victims as moral because this perception serves to motivate punishment of perpetrators and helping of victims, and people frequently face incentives to enact or encourage these “justice-restorative” actions. Our results validate predictions of this hypothesis and suggest that the Virtuous Victim effect does not merely reflect (i) that victims look good in contrast to perpetrators, (ii) that people are generally inclined to positively evaluate those who have suffered, or (iii) that people hold a genuine belief that victims tend to be people who behave morally.


Across 17 experiments (total n = 9676), we have documented and explored the Virtuous Victim effect. We find that victims are frequently seen as more virtuous than nonvictims—not because of their own behavior, but because others have mistreated them. We observe this effect across a range of moral transgressions and find evidence that it is not moderated by the victim’s (white versus black) race or gender. Humans ubiquitously—and perhaps increasingly (1, 2)—encounter narratives about immoral acts and their victims. By demonstrating that these narratives have the power to confer moral status, our results shed new light on the ways that victims are perceived by society.

We have also explored the boundaries of the Virtuous Victim effect and illuminated the mechanisms that underlie it. For example, we find that the Virtuous Victim effect may be especially likely to flow from victim narratives that describe a transgression’s perpetrator and are presented by a third-person narrator (or perhaps, more generally, a narrator who is unlikely to be doubted). We also find that the effect is specific to victims of immorality (i.e., it does not extend to accident victims) and to moral virtue (i.e., it does not extend equally to positive but nonmoral traits). Furthermore, the effect shapes perceptions of moral character but not predictions about moral behavior.

We have also evaluated several potential explanations for the Virtuous Victim effect. Ultimately, our results provide evidence for the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, which proposes that people see victims as virtuous because this perception serves to motivate punishment of perpetrators and helping of victims, and people frequently face incentives to enact or encourage these justice-restorative actions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Virtuous Victims

Jordan, J., & Kouchaki, M. (2020, April 11).


Humans ubiquitously encounter narratives about immoral acts and their victims. Here, we demonstrate that these narratives can influence perceptions of victims’ moral character. Specifically, across a wide range of contexts, victims are seen as more moral than non-victims who have behaved identically. Using 13 experiments (total n = 8,358), we explore this Virtuous Victim effect. We show that it is specific to victims of immorality (i.e., it does not extend equally to victims of accidental misfortune) and to moral virtue (i.e., it does not extend equally to positive nonmoral traits). We also show that the Virtuous Victim effect can occur online and in the lab, when subjects have other morally relevant information about the victim, when subjects have a direct opportunity to condemn the perpetrator, and in the context of both third- and first-person victim narratives. Finally, we provide support for the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, which posits that people see victims as moral in order to motivate adaptive justice-restorative action (i.e., punishment of perpetrators and helping of victims). We show that people see victims as having elevated moral character, but do not expect them to behave more morally or less immorally—a pattern that is consistent with the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, but not readily explained by alternative explanations for the Virtuous Victim effect. And we provide both correlational and causal evidence for a key prediction of the Justice Restoration Hypothesis: when people do not perceive incentives to help victims and punish perpetrators, the Virtuous Victim effect disappears.

From the Discussion

Our theory and results negate the hypothesis that people see victims as morally deserving of mistreatment in order to maintain just world beliefs. We suggest that, when exposed to apparent injustice, the default reaction is not to justify what has occurred, but rather to seek to restore justice (by punishing the perpetrator and/or helping the victim)  .It has been proposed that restoring justice is another route through which people can maintain just world beliefs(25, 26). And we have argued it is typically a more adaptive response to wrongdoing, because people frequently face incentives for justice-restorative action.  Our experiments are consistent with the hypothesis that in order to adaptively motivate such action, people see victims as morally good. Future research should investigate whether people also see victims as possessing other traits (e.g., helpless, neediness, or innocence) that might motivate justice-restorative action.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Children’s evaluations of third-party responses to unfairness: Children prefer helping over punishment.

Lee, Y., & Warneken, F. (2020, June 13).


Third-party punishment of selfish individuals is an important mechanism to intervene against unfairness. However, there is another way in which third parties can intervene. Rather than focusing on the unfair individual, third parties can choose to help those who were treated unfairly by reducing inequality. Such third-party helping as an alternative to third-party punishment has received little attention in studies with children. Across four studies, we examined the evaluations of third-party punishment versus third-party helping in N = 322 5- to 9-year-old children. Study 1, 3 and 4 showed that when asked about the agents directly, children evaluated both helpers and punishers positively, but they preferred helpers over punishers overall. When asked about the type of intervention itself, children preferred helping over punishment, suggesting that their preference for the type of intervention corresponds to how children think about the agents performing these interventions. Study 2 showed that children’s preference for third-party helping is driven by distributive justice concerns and not a mere preference for giving or resource maximization as children consider which type of third-party intervention decreases inequality. Together, this series of studies demonstrate that children between 5 and 9 years of age develop a sophisticated understanding of punishment and helping as two adequate forms of intervention but also display a preference for third-party helping. We discuss how these findings and prior work with adults supports the hypothesis of developmental continuity, showing that a preference for helping over punishment is deeply rooted in ontogeny.

From the Discussion:

The current study contributes to the literature by moving beyond the focus on punishment alone and probing children’s thinking about punishment and helping side by side. Prior developmental research focused on comparing punishers with third parties such as onlookers who choose not to intervene after witnessing a transgression (e.g., Vaish et al., 2016) or givers who reward a transgressor(e.g., Hamlin et al., 2011), which might have led to inflating children’s preference for punishers. Instead, the current study compared punishment with helping, a valid and common form of third-party intervention. Additionally, our study assessed children’s evaluations of punishment intervention per se and revealed a subtle but meaningful difference in understanding punishers vs. punishment, which was especially remarkable in young children. With the use of various measures and comparisons, the current study provided a more comprehensive understanding of the development of third-party punishment in children

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Punish the Perpetrator or Compensate the Victim?

Yingjie Liu, Lin Li, Li Zheng, and Xiuyan Guo
Front. Psychol., 28 November 2017


Third-party punishment and third-party compensation are primary responses to observed norms violations. Previous studies mostly investigated these behaviors in gain rather than loss context, and few study made direct comparison between these two behaviors. We conducted three experiments to investigate third-party punishment and third-party compensation in the gain and loss context. Participants observed two persons playing Dictator Game to share an amount of gain or loss, and the proposer would propose unfair distribution sometimes. In Study 1A, participants should decide whether they wanted to punish proposer. In Study 1B, participants decided to compensate the recipient or to do nothing. This two experiments explored how gain and loss contexts might affect the willingness to altruistically punish a perpetrator, or to compensate a victim of unfairness. Results suggested that both third-party punishment and compensation were stronger in the loss context. Study 2 directly compare third-party punishment and third-party compensation in the both contexts, by allowing participants choosing between punishment, compensation and keeping. Participants chose compensation more often than punishment in the loss context, and chose more punishments in the gain context. Empathic concern partly explained between-context differences of altruistic compensation and punishment. Our findings provide insights on modulating effect of context on third-party altruistic decisions.

The research is here.