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Home > Events > Initiative Event: Moral Agency & Moral Development - Those Who Disregard the Past are Doomed…to Blame Others Harshly" Michael Gill

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Initiative Event: Moral Agency & Moral Development - Those Who Disregard the Past are Doomed…to Blame Others Harshly" Michael Gill

by Rebecca Bennitt Apr 10, 2018
When Apr 10, 2018
from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM
Where 127 Moore
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Those Who Disregard the Past are Doomed…to Blame Others Harshly: How and Why Historicist Narratives Temper Blame and Punitiveness

Michael Gill 

Initiative Event: Moral Agency & Moral Development 

Harsh responses to others’ transgressions can be socially destructive (e.g., dysfunctional marriages, toxic workplaces, intractable intergroup conflicts). How can harsh blame be tempered into calmer, wiser blame? We propose this can happen via a historicist narrative, or a storied account of the history of a wrongdoer, which explains her (lack of) moral development. In one set of experiments, we will present evidence that historicist narratives temper blame and punitiveness despite having no effect on several well-documented mechanisms of blame mitigation (i.e., intentionality, volitional control). Rather, historicist narratives accomplish blame mitigation via a novel mechanism involving perceived control of self-formation: The wrongdoer is not the architect of his own personality. Another set of studies will demonstrate that, although they generally reduce blame, historicist narratives elicit more uncertainty about blameworthiness than do other mitigating accounts such as biological impairment narratives. This renders blame judgments made in the presence of a historicist narrative especially susceptible to influence by motivational factors. A final set of studies will show that individual differences exist in the tendency to spontaneously employ historicist narratives. These individual differences are predictive of reduced punitiveness across a variety of indices. In sum, historicist narratives provide one tool for tempering harsh, vindictive blame reactions and they do so via a theoretically novel mechanism.