A new study found that we tend to reserve our harshest morality judgment is reserved those within our social circle.
Morality Judgment within Groups
We often assume that we judge those close to us with a gentler touch. Yet, Cornell University’s latest findings suggest otherwise: we tend to be stricter with our own peers, especially when it comes to moral failings.
Morality, the invisible bond that keeps a community united, often sets the standards for judgment. Simone Tang, a significant contributor to the research, states that our ties within a group make us believe its members are more trustworthy. However, a breach in moral conduct by one of our own can potentially tarnish the entire group’s reputation. As a result, to safeguard the group’s integrity, we might end up being more critical of our own members.
The Dynamics of Ingroup vs. Outgroup
Members of the “ingroup” usually have something in common – be it political beliefs, organizational ties, or even nationality. On the flip side, the “outgroup” represents individuals from different backgrounds, nationalities, or institutions. Despite conventional wisdom suggesting favoritism towards ingroup members, the study points out that moral transgressions by ingroup members often invite stricter judgments.
Engaging 2,361 participants, a mix of university students and members of American online communities, the study unveiled intriguing patterns. Participants learned about inappropriate actions, either by an ingroup or an outgroup member. A clear distinction emerged when comparing reactions to moral violations like gender discrimination with non-moral ones like tardiness. Ingroup members committing moral violations faced tougher criticism, hinting at the value people place on preserving the moral fabric of their community.
Shedding light on larger societal issues, Tang highlights the implications of their findings in contemporary politics. The growing polarization might not just be an ‘us versus them’ scenario. Instead, as the research suggests, harsh judgments against opposing views may arise from viewing adversaries as part of the same larger group, say, fellow Americans. This perspective shift offers a fresh lens to understand the rising internal divisions within major societal groups.