Group moral discount: Diffusing blame when judging group members


People lie more when they work as a group rather than alone. However, do people suspect and morally evaluate groups and individuals differently when they are suspiciously successful? In four experiments, we examine whether (a) suspiciously successful individuals and groups are judged and punished differently and (b) individual group members are judged differently from the group as one unit. Results suggest that people suspect successful groups and individuals to the same extent. However, group members are less likely to be suspected, judged negatively, punished, and reported on, when they are judged as separate individuals compared with as a group. The findings demonstrate a bias in judgment of group members, stemming from the method of evaluation—holistic or separate. We suggest that in order to minimize bias when judging misconduct by a group, the moral evaluation and punishment of all group members should be considered simultaneously.

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making