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 Outgroup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outgroup. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Who did it? Moral wrongness for us and them in the UK, US, and Brazil

Paulo Sérgio Boggio, et al. (2023) 
Philosophical Psychology
DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2023.2278637


Morality has traditionally been described in terms of an impartial and objective “moral law”, and moral psychological research has largely followed in this vein, focusing on abstract moral judgments. But might our moral judgments be shaped not just by what the action is, but who is doing it? We looked at ratings of moral wrongness, manipulating whether the person doing the action was a friend, a refugee, or a stranger. We looked at these ratings across various moral foundations, and conducted the study in Brazil, US, and UK samples. Our most robust and consistent findings are that purity violations were judged more harshly when committed by ingroup members and less harshly when committed by the refugees in comparison to the unspecified agents, the difference between refugee and unspecified agents decays from liberals to conservatives, i.e., conservatives judge them more harshly than liberals do, and Brazilians participants are harsher than the US and UK participants. Our results suggest that purity violations are judged differently according to who committed them and according to the political ideology of the judges. We discuss the findings in light of various theories of groups dynamics, such as moral hypocrisy, moral disengagement, and the black sheep effect.

Here is my summary:

The study explores how moral judgments vary depending on both the agent committing the act and the nationality of the person making the judgment. The study's findings challenge the notion that moral judgments are universal and instead suggest that they are influenced by cultural and national factors.

The researchers investigated how participants from the UK, US, and Brazil judged moral violations committed by different agents: friends, strangers, refugees, and unspecified individuals. They found that participants from all three countries generally judged violations committed by friends more harshly than violations committed by other agents. However, there were also significant cultural differences in the severity of judgments. Brazilians tended to judge violations of purity as less wrong than Americans, but judged violations of care, liberty, and fairness as more wrong than Americans.

The study's findings suggest that moral judgments are not simply based on the severity of the act itself, but also on factors such as the relationship between the agent and the victim, and the cultural background of the person making the judgment. These findings have implications for understanding cross-cultural moral conflicts and for developing more effective moral education programs.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Intergroup preference, not dehumanization, explains social biases in emotion attribution

F. Enoch, S. P. Tipper, & H. Over
Volume 216, November 2021, 104865


Psychological models can only help improve intergroup relations if they accurately characterise the mechanisms underlying social biases. The claim that outgroups suffer dehumanization is near ubiquitous in the social sciences. We challenge the most prominent psychological model of dehumanization - infrahumanization theory - which holds outgroup members are subtly dehumanized by being denied human emotions. We examine the theory across seven intergroup contexts in thirteen pre-registered and highly powered experiments (N = 1690). We find outgroup members are not denied uniquely human emotions relative to ingroup members. Rather, they are ascribed prosocial emotions to a lesser extent but antisocial emotions to a greater extent. Apparent evidence for infrahumanization is better explained by ingroup preference, outgroup derogation and stereotyping. Infrahumanization theory may obscure more than it reveals about intergroup bias.


• Infrahumanization theory predicts outgroups are often denied uniquely human emotions.

• However, to date, antisocial uniquely human emotions have not been investigated.

• We test attributions of prosocial and antisocial emotions to social groups.

• Attributions of antisocial human emotions were stronger for outgroups than ingroups.

• We find no support for the predictions of infrahumanization theory.

From the General Discussion

Our results dovetail with recent empirical work that challenges the predictions made by Haslam's (2006) dual model of dehumanization (Enock et al., 2021). This research showed that when undesirable human-specific characteristics (such as ‘corrupt’ and ‘selfish’) are included in overall measures of humanness, there is no evidence for either animalistic or mechanistic dehumanization of outgroups as characterised by the dual model. Rather, desirable human qualities are more strongly attributed to ingroup members and undesirable human qualities to outgroup members. The present work extends these findings by further demonstrating the importance of considering sociality confounds when measuring psychological processes of ‘dehumanization’, this time through another highly prominent framework within the field.

During the review process, it was put to us that because dimensions of valence and sociality correlate highly in our pretest, the two constructs are “indistinguishable”, thus rendering our critique obsolete. We believe this represents a misunderstanding. Height and weight are strongly positively correlated, yet they are distinct constructs. Similarly, even though emotions that are generally perceived as prosocial may also perceived as positive to experience, and emotions that are generally perceived as antisocial may also be perceived as negative to experience, the two constructs are clearly conceptually distinct. While sadness is negative to experience, it is not inherently antisocial in character. Schadenfreude on the other hand is, by definition, positive to experience but antisocial in character.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Uniting against a common enemy: Perceived outgroup threat elicits ingroup cohesion in chimpanzees

Brooks J, Onishi E, Clark IR, Bohn M, Yamamoto S
PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246869. 


Outgroup threat has been identified as an important driver of ingroup cohesion in humans, but the evolutionary origin of such a relationship is unclear. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the wild are notably aggressive towards outgroup members but coordinate complex behaviors with many individuals in group hunting and border patrols. One hypothesis claims that these behaviors evolve alongside one another, where outgroup threat selects for ingroup cohesion and group coordination. To test this hypothesis, 5 groups of chimpanzees (N = 29 individuals) were observed after hearing either pant-hoots of unfamiliar wild chimpanzees or control crow vocalizations both in their typical daily environment and in a context of induced feeding competition. We observed a behavioral pattern that was consistent both with increased stress and vigilance (self-directed behaviors increased, play decreased, rest decreased) and increased ingroup cohesion (interindividual proximity decreased, aggression over food decreased, and play during feeding competition increased). These results support the hypothesis that outgroup threat elicits ingroup tolerance in chimpanzees. This suggests that in chimpanzees, like humans, competition between groups fosters group cohesion.


We observed chimpanzees’ behavioral response to outgroup pant-hoots compared to crow vocalizations. Overall, our results were consistent with the social cohesion hypothesis but not with the generalized stress hypothesis. Indicators of stress and vigilance were higher after hearing vocalizations from unfamiliar chimpanzees compared to crow vocalizations but this did not translate into within group tension. Instead, indicators of affiliation and tolerance were higher in the outgroup vocalization condition compared to control crow vocalization condition. Upon receiving semi-monopolizable food, play was higher and aggression lower in the outgroup compared to control condition, indicating a shift towards prosocial strategies in releasing tension induced by feeding competition. These results suggest that outgroup threat directly induces ingroup cohesion in chimpanzees, and importantly, that this effect translates to feeding contexts with high within group tension.

Consistent with previous studies, we found behavioral indicators of vigilance and stress increased. More specifically, in the playback phase there were more self-directed behaviors (self-grooming and self-scratching), less rest, and a lower proportion of lying down in the outgroup vocalization condition compared to control crow vocalization condition. For the latter two this effect decreased for later presentations of the vocalizations, presumably due to habituation to the stimuli (see S1 File). The increase in self-directed behaviors, often interpreted as signals of stress, is likely due to chimpanzees finding outgroup sounds more stressful than crow vocalizations, consistent with a previous study documenting a rise in cortisol following outgroup auditory stimuli in many of the same individuals as those involved in this study. The decrease in rest, through its interaction with trial, is consistent with field research on gorillas where rest decreased following intergroup encounters, but in this case may simply have been due to a trade-off with the relative increase in other behaviors including self-directed behavior and social grooming. The decrease in proportion of rest lying down (as an interaction with trial) may further be interpreted as a sign of vigilance, where chimpanzees remained alert even while not engaged in other behaviors. In the playback phase, contrary to the social cohesion hypothesis, there was a decrease in play in the outgroup compared to the control crow vocalization condition. One explanation is that this was also indicative of increased vigilance or stress. Taken together, the results of several behavioral measures converge on the result that chimpanzees were more stressed and vigilant when outgroup vocalizations were played, compared to crow vocalizations.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Social Identity Theory: The Science of "Us vs. Them"

One of the most fundamental insights in the psychology of prejudice and discrimination is can be found in "social identity theory." The theory, pioneered by Henri Tajfel and his colleagues, helps explain how the mere existence of ingroups and outgroups can give rise to hostility. The "us vs. them" mentality and the tribalism it evokes can be at least part of why groups have such trouble seeing eye to eye.

Originally posted 25 Jan 21

Friday, March 19, 2021

Religion, parochialism and intuitive cooperation

Isler, O., Yilmaz, O. & John Maule, A. 
Nat Hum Behav (2021). 


Religions promote cooperation, but they can also be divisive. Is religious cooperation intuitively parochial against atheists? Evidence supporting the social heuristics hypothesis (SHH) suggests that cooperation is intuitive, independent of religious group identity. We tested this prediction in a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma game, where 1,280 practising Christian believers were paired with either a coreligionist or an atheist and where time limits were used to increase reliance on either intuitive or deliberated decisions. We explored another dual-process account of cooperation, the self-control account (SCA), which suggests that visceral reactions tend to be selfish and that cooperation requires deliberation. We found evidence for religious parochialism but no support for SHH’s prediction of intuitive cooperation. Consistent with SCA but requiring confirmation in future studies, exploratory analyses showed that religious parochialism involves decision conflict and concern for strong reciprocity and that deliberation promotes cooperation independent of religious group identity.


In essence, the research replicated the widespread tendency for group bias.  They found Christians were more likely to cooperate with other Christians and, similarly, atheists were more likely to cooperate with other atheists.

But they also found that the participants, particularly the Christians, were able to resist selfish impulses and cooperate more if given time to deliberate and think about their decisions.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Changing morals: we’re more compassionate than 100 years ago, but more judgmental too

N. Haslam, M. J. McGrady, & M. A. Wheeler
The Conversation
Originally published 4 March 19

Here is an excerpt:

Differently moral

We found basic moral terms (see the black line below) became dramatically scarcer in English-language books as the 20th century unfolded – which fits the de-moralisation narrative. But an equally dramatic rebound began in about 1980, implying a striking re-moralisation.

The five moral foundations, on the other hand, show a vastly changing trajectory. The purity foundation (green line) shows the same plunge and rebound as the basic moral terms. Ideas of sacredness, piety and purity, and of sin, desecration and indecency, fell until about 1980, and rose afterwards.

The other moralities show very different pathways. Perhaps surprisingly, the egalitarian morality of fairness (blue) showed no consistent rise or fall.

In contrast, the hierarchy-based morality of authority (grey) underwent a gentle decline for the first half of the century. It then sharply rose as the gathering crisis of authority shook the Western world in the late 1960s. This morality of obedience and conformity, insubordination and rebellion, then receded equally sharply through the 1970s.

Ingroup morality (orange), reflected in the communal language of loyalty and unity, insiders and outsiders, displays the clearest upward trend through the 20th century. Discernible bumps around the two world wars point to passing elevations in the “us and them” morality of threatened communities.

Finally, harm-based morality (red) presents a complex but intriguing trend. Its prominence falls from 1900 to the 1970s, interrupted by similar wartime bumps when themes of suffering and destruction became understandably urgent. But harm rises steeply from about 1980 in the absence of a single dominating global conflict.

The info is here.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Moralized memory: binding values predict inflated estimates of the group’s historical influence

Luke Churchill, Jeremy K. Yamashiro & Henry L. Roediger III
Memory (2019)
DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2019.1623261


Collective memories are memories or historical knowledge shared by individual group members, which shape their collective identity. Ingroup inflation, which has previously also been referred to as national narcissism or state narcissism, is the finding that group members judge their own group to have been significantly more historically influential than do people from outside the group. We examined the role of moral motivations in this biased remembering. A sample of 2118 participants, on average 42 from each state of the United States, rated their home state’s contribution to U.S. history, as well as that of ten other states randomly selected. We demonstrated an ingroup inflation effect in estimates of the group’s historical influence. Participants’ endorsement of binding values – loyalty, authority, and sanctity, but particularly loyalty – positively predicted the size of this effect. Endorsement of individuating values – care and fairness – did not predict collective narcissism. Moral motives may shape biases in collective remembering.

The research can be found here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Is “Allison” more likely than “Lakisha” to get a call back from counseling professionals: A racism audit study.

Shin, R. Q., Smith, L.C., Welch, J., Ezeofor, I. (in press).
The Counseling Psychologist


Using an audit study, we studied racially biased call back responses in the mental health field by leaving voicemails soliciting services with practicing counselors and psychologists (N = 371). To manipulate perceived race, an actor identified herself with either a Black or White sounding name. While the difference in callback rate between the two names was not significant, the difference in voice messages from therapists that either promoted potential services or impeded services was significant. The caller with the White-sounding name received voice messages that promoted the potential for services at a 12% higher rate than the caller with the Black sounding name. Limitations, future directions for research, and counseling implications are discussed.

A review of the article is here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Preferences and beliefs in ingroup favoritism

Jim A. C. Everett, Nadira S. Faber, and Molly Crockett
Front. Behav. Neurosci., 13 February 2015

Ingroup favoritism—the tendency to favor members of one’s own group over those in other groups—is well documented, but the mechanisms driving this behavior are not well understood. In particular, it is unclear to what extent ingroup favoritism is driven by preferences concerning the welfare of ingroup over outgroup members, vs. beliefs about the behavior of ingroup and outgroup members. In this review we analyze research on ingroup favoritism in economic games, identifying key gaps in the literature and providing suggestions on how future work can incorporate these insights to shed further light on when, why, and how ingroup favoritism occurs. In doing so, we demonstrate how social psychological theory and research can be integrated with findings from behavioral economics, providing new theoretical and methodological directions for future research.

Across many different contexts, people act more prosocially towards members of their own group relative to those outside their group. Consequently, a number of scientific disciplines concerned with human cognition and behavior have sought to explain such ingroup favoritism (also known as parochial altruism). Here we explore to what extent ingroup favoritism is driven by preferences concerning the welfare of ingroup over outgroup members, vs. beliefs about the (future) behavior of ingroup and outgroup members.

The article is here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Can violence be moral?

Intuitively, we might think that any sort of violent act is immoral.

By David Nussbaum and Séamus A Power
The Guardian
Originally posted February 28, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Generally speaking, we think of most interpersonal violence, not just terrorist attacks, as immoral. It’s very rare that you’ll see anybody claim that hurting someone else is an inherently moral thing to do. When people are violent, explanations for their behavior tend to invoke some sort of breakdown: a lack of self-control, the dehumanization of an “outgroup,” or perhaps sadistic psychological tendencies.

This is a comforting notion – one that draws a clear boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But according to the authors of a new book, it simply isn’t an accurate reflection of how people actually behave: morality, as understood and practiced by real-world human beings, doesn’t always prohibit violence. In fact they make the case that most violence is motivated by morality.

The entire article is here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Unethical for the Sake of the Group

Risk of social exclusion and pro-group unethical behavior

By S. Thau, R. Defler-Rozin, M. Marko and others
Journal of Applied Psychology, Apr 28 , 2014, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0036708


This research tested the idea that the risk of exclusion from one’s group motivates group members to engage in unethical behaviors that secure better outcomes for the group (pro-group unethical behaviors). We theorized that this effect occurs because those at risk of exclusion seek to improve their inclusionary status by engaging in unethical behaviors that benefit the group; we tested this assumption by examining how the effect of exclusion risk on pro-group unethical behavior varies as a function of group members’ need for inclusion. A 2-wave field study conducted among a diverse sample of employees working in groups (Study 1) and a constructive replication using a laboratory experiment (Study 2) provided converging evidence for the theory. Study 1 found that perceived risk of exclusion from one’s workgroup predicted employees’ engagement in pro-group unethical behaviors, but only when employees have a high (not low) need for inclusion. In Study 2, compared to low risk of exclusion from a group, high risk of exclusion led to more pro-group (but not pro-self) unethical behaviors, but only for participants with a high (not low) need for inclusion. We discuss implications for theory and the management of unethical behaviors in organizations.


Rising reports of corporate scandals and incidents of employees engaging in behaviors that are considered "illegal or morally unacceptable to the larger community" (Jones, 1991, p. 367) have increased scholarly attention to the nature and causes of unethical behavior in organizations.

Examples of unethical behaviors include stealing from one's employer, deceiving customers, and misrepresenting performance (Trevino, den Nieuwenboer, & Kish- Gephart, 2014).

The costs associated with just one type of these behaviors--employee theft--are estimated at as much as $40 billion yearly (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2013), which is nearly ten times the cost of all street crime combined, including burglaries and robberies (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011).

A large body of research has identified characteristics of individuals, moral issues, and organizational contexts as antecedents of unethical behavior (Kish-Gephart, Harrison, & Trevin~o, 2010; Trevino, 1986; Trevino et al., 2014; Trevino, Weaver, & Reynolds, 2006).

The entire article is here, behind a paywall.

Reprints for the article can be emailed to this author.