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Honesty of political opponent is moral spur

Misbehavior in the in-group promotes imitators




Whether somebody behaves more or less morally, is influenced by “one´s own people” (in-group) the same as by “the others” (out-group) – and still in a completely different way. Colleagues leave their traces primarily negatively. When observing misbehavior of those, “whom we belong to”, we do forget ethics and decency more easily. This is because we feel protected from any consequences by the group and/or want to demonstrate connectedness by behaving in an apparently accepted way.

Competition on the other hand promotes when it comes to morals rather the positive side in us. It does so particularly if political opponents or representatives of a rival department stands out for peculiar honesty. Who wants to have people say he/she would be less sincere than “these others”?

These are the conclusions a research team of Ivy League Universities Brown and Harvard get to in a recently published study. Remarkable from the scientific perspective: individuals who take honest behavior by out-group member as a moral spur still do not change their negative opinion about them.

„Following your group or your morals? The in-group promotes immoral behavior while the out-group buffers against ist”, Vives/Cikara/FeldmanHall, in Social Psychology and Personality Science, OnlineFirst, March 19th, 2021



From the practice:

This study confirms a sort of hypocracy or double standards we so often are confronted with in competitive arenas, above all in politics. To be generous in case of misbehavior of members of the own party and to be relentless against the very same or even minor activities if they are conducted by “the other ones”. It does not come by chance that politicians hit the bottom line of reputation rankings regularly – when credibility is concerned.

For 22 years I am questioning why so many officials see more risks than opportunities in distancing themselves from misbehavior in their in-group. Where is the issue, to demand more correctness not only for the others but also for yourself and your people? Why interpret so many “solidarity” as solidarity for their party and not for the country with its citizens?

We as coaches and advisers are asked to engage in this field even more: by encouraging, reflecting clear attitudes and training what this will mean in terms of communication. Eventually very often a client admits in a 1:1-session that double standards have to be stopped. Till today only few of them stand up against it visibly, though.

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