The Role of Cultural Models of Self-Worth in Vicarious Experiences of Wrongdoing
Lyons, Sarah Louise
Gelfand, Michele J
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This research sought to understand why people from different cultures respond in fundamentally different ways to their own ingroup transgressions. We predicted that in face cultures, where self-worth is defined by one's reputation, ingroup transgressions would elicit vicarious shame and withdrawal tendencies, especially in public; in dignity cultures, however, where self-worth does not depend on reputation and justice is a focal concern, ingroup transgressions would elicit vicarious guilt and reparative behavior. In Study 1, participants responded to hypothetical ingroup transgressions. In Study 2, sorority and fraternity members recalled a time when a group member committed a wrongdoing. In Study 3, we simulated a real ingroup offense in the lab. We found partial support for our hypotheses in Study 1; face predicted distancing behavior, mediated by image-threat appraisals and shame, but only in public. The results in Studies 2 and 3 were less clear, and suggest evidence for motivated distortion.