Good deeds won’t help you evade blame

February 17th, 2011 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 17 (IANS) Great performance or good behaviour may bring respect and admiration, but they won’t help us evade blame when we trip, says a new study. Participants in the study responded to a number of scenarios mirroring real-life moral transgressions, from stealing money to harming someone.

Results revealed that no matter how many previous good deeds someone had done, they received just as much blame - if not more - than someone with a less heroic background, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports.

“People may come down even harder on someone like the Dalai Lama, than they do on ‘Joe Blow’,” said author Kurt Gray, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, who led the study with Harvard psychology professor Daniel Wegner.

“However, in our research, those who have suffered in the past received significantly less blame even if such suffering was both totally unrelated to the misdeed and long since past,” added Gray, according to a Maryland statement.

“Our research suggests that morality is not like some kind of cosmic bank, where you can deposit good deeds and use them to offset future misdeeds,” said Gray, who directs the Mind Perception and Morality Lab at Maryland.

“Instead, people ignore heroic pasts, or even count them against you when assigning blame. Psychologically, the perceived distance between a hero and a villain is quite small, whereas there’s a wide gap between a villain and a victim.

“This means that heroes are easily recast as evil doers, whereas it’s very hard to turn a victim into a villain,” Gray concluded.

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