Q: Experiment on blaming the one you hurt?

by Eliezer Yudkowsky1 min read29th Mar 201118 comments


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For bookwriting - Does anyone have a quick ref for experiments where the subject is forced to hurt someone, and then evaluates that person negatively ("The victim deserved it")?  I can't recall the Google keyword; it doesn't show up for "blaming the victim" or "just-world hypothesis".

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Defensive attribution may be the keyword that you want, starting with a 1973 Chaikin & Darley study. Or try victim derogation. A quick search turned up a few other articles that might be relevant: 1, 290039-4), 3.

(2) looks like the the experiment that was asked for, though it adds some extra complexity. Oh humans, so complicated.

Googling around from these citations did produce:

Glass, D. (1964). Changes in liking as a means of reducing cognitive discrepancies between self-esteem and aggression. Journal of Personality, 32, 531-549.

Which I think is what I'm looking for.

Here's the PDF, if you don't already have access to it.

...well that ain't a very large effect size in the direction of the hypothesis, even under the best conditions.

Don't suppose you've got "Changes in interpersonal perception as a means of reducing cognitive dissonance"?

Looks better. Thank you!

Less Wrong for the win!

The result that caused me to feel like I recognized what you were referring to is probably this (it has about 500 google scholar citations), but it was linked from the wikipedia page on just world, and perhaps "the victim was viewed as suffering for the sake of Ss ("martyr" condition)" is a weaker condition than "forced to hurt", so it may not actually satisfy your description. Along the same lines there is also this: "When S perceived herself as responsible for the other person's fate, she tended to devalue her".

Wikipedia has a page on Just-world phenomenon which lists the following references:

Lerner, M, & Simmons, CH. (1966). Observer reaction to the 'innocent victim': Compassion or rejection? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 4 (2): 203–210.

Carli, L.L. (1999). Cognitive reconstruction, hindsight, and reactions to victims and perpetrators. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 966-979.

Lerner, M.J. & Miller, D.T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 1030-1051.

I bet that a "related articles" search on ISI Web of Science for the Carli 1999 article will turn up some additional relevant, and hopefully more recent, papers.

Edit: Some additional references from Wiki page on Victim blaming

Janoffbulman, R. (1985). Cognitive biases in blaming the victim. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 21: 161–178.

Maes, Jürgen (1994). Blaming the victim: Belief in control or belief in justice? Social Justice Research 7: 69–90.

McCaul, K. D.; Veltum, L. G.; Boyechko, V.; Crawford, J. J. (1990). Understanding Attributions of Victim Blame for Rape: Sex, Violence, and Foreseeability. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 20: 1–26.

Today I read something relevant:

In one of our studies, participants were asked to either consume a piece of beef-jerky or a cashew nut as part of a consumer study. They were then asked to indicate all the animals that they thought were worthy of moral concern. Finally, they were asked look at a picture of a cow and rate its mental capacities.

Participants who ate beef-jerky indicated that they thought fewer animals were worthy of moral concern and rated the cow as having fewer mental capacities, compared to participants who ate a cashew nut.

I don't especially recommend the source article though (due to an unimpressive content-to-word ratio).

Some googling lead me to the Wikipedia article on cognitive dissonance (this link should get you to the right spot on the page).

Wikipedia's citation for this is: Tavris, Carol; Elliot Aronson (2008). Mistakes were made (but not by me). Pinter and Martin. pp. 26–29. This book's first 55 pages are viewable on Google Books. I'll attempt to link directly to the relevant section here but it's an ugly URL so I'm not sure it'll work.

Citation 17 looks like just the thing you're looking for, but the viewable portion of their citations section cuts off just too early on both Amazon and Google Books. Thankfully some searching turns it up readily. I don't know one academic database from another, let alone which you might have access to, but here's a link to ScienceDirect. The paper is "The physiology of catharsis" by Michael Kahn.

The book's discussion implies that there is other work that supports this study ("The first experiment that demonstrated this actually came as a complete surprise to the investigator..."), but there are no other relevant citations in that section. Their second example, playground bullying, has rather than a supporting citation a quote from a Dostoevsky novel.

I don't have time to do further searching myself at the moment, but from their discussion I'd try investigating the term "dissonance theory" next.

"Leadership and self-deception" has a lot of this theme, though they take it for granted rather than prove it.

For this article, Eliezer chose the title, "Experiment on blaming the one you hurt".

In the future, might I humbly suggest the phrasing, "The natural human tendency to blame . . ." (a riff off the phrase, "human nature").

Except he was specifically asking about a pointer to the experiment.

"Experiment on the existence of a natural human tendency to blame . . ." then :)

A bit of a search didn't turn up any red-hot leads. Maybe Feinberg et al. 1982, but maybe not.