Causal and moral responsibility: Antecedents and consequences of group-based guilt

Authors


Anja Zimmermann, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Park Place, CF10 3AT Cardiff, UK.

E-mail: zima8.79@gmail.com

Abstract

In six studies (N = 1045) conducted in three European countries, we demonstrate distinctions between causal responsibility, group-based guilt, and moral responsibility. We propose that causal responsibility is an antecedent of group-based guilt linking the ingroup to previous transgressions against the victim group. In contrast, moral responsibility is a consequence of group-based guilt and is conceptualized as a sociomoral norm to respond to the consequences of the ingroup's transgressions and the current needs of the victim group. As such, moral responsibility can be stimulated by group-based guilt and directly predicts individual action intentions. Studies 1 and 2 focus on the conceptual distinctions among the three constructs. Study 3 tests the indirect effect of causal responsibility on moral responsibility via group-based guilt. The remaining studies explore the mediating role of moral responsibility in associations between group-based guilt and compensatory action tendencies, that is, financial compensation (study 4), approach and avoidance tendencies (study 5) and public apology (study 6). Together these studies show that causal and moral responsibility are psychologically distinct concepts from group-based guilt and that moral responsibility plays an important role in shaping the effects of group-based guilt on behavioral intentions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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