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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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Marginal Unethicality: Transgressor and Victim Perspectives on the Unethicality of Additional Transgressions

Keywords: Ethics, morality, social judgments, transgressions

Abstract: The rise of social media has brought about an increase in the kinds of acts that can violate an individual’s dignity. Once information exists in the public sphere persons, who willingly choose to partake, are violating the individual’s privacy once more. For many, the more people that engage in a transgression, such as accessing someone’s private photos, the less wrong it seems. But victims may not be quite so prepared to excuse a transgressor simply because others have already committed the same act. We examine transgressor and victim perspectives on what we term ‘Marginal Unethicality’; judgments of the unethicality of an additional transgression, relative to previous ones. In three experiments we demonstrate that, as the number of previous transgressors increases, transgressors consider a new act as less problematic. Victims; however, consider the mitigating effect of previous transgressions to be significantly smaller, resulting in a greater perception of unethicality.

Julia Langdon, London Business School

Daniel Effron, London Business School

Jonathan Berman, London Business School


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