Ethics Across the Boundaries of Social Identity: The Role of Intergroup Bias in the Perception of Unethical Behavior
19 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2006
Intergroup conflict reflects, in part, judgments made about behavior across group boundaries. We investigate in this research how group identity is related to judgments individuals make about the ethicality of others. According to Social Identity Theory, ingroup favoritism serves to positively distinguish the ingroup from the out-group, therefore promoting a positive group image. However, recent literature suggests that when behaviors are unambiguously negative, groups are even more critical of ingroup members, causing the black-sheep effect. The specific factors that engender ingroup favoritism versus the black-sheep effect remain in question. The present study examined both phenomena in the context of the evaluation of unethical behaviors. Participants read one of three scenarios describing either a mild or severe unethical action performed by an ingroup member, out-group member, or non-group member. It was expected that ingroup favoritism would operate when the action was mildly unethical, and the black-sheep effect would operate when the action was severely unethical. Results provided partial support for the existence of the black-sheep effect and out-group derogation. Ingroup favoritism was not supported in this context.
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