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IACM 2023

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Hierarchy, Dehumanization, and Perpetuation of Wrongdoing

We offer a new explanation for why wrongdoing persists in a hierarchical organization. We found that misconduct perpetuates because individuals perceive heterarchical (as opposed to flat) organizations as more dehumanizing of their employees, leading to greater tolerance and less severity of punishment for misconduct. As a result, misconduct is more likely to be perpetuated. Three studies using different methods and samples support this conclusion. Study 1 used the World Values Survey and found that people in more hierarchical cultures were more likely to justify a range of wrongdoing behaviors. Studies 2a and 2b used experimental designs and manipulated the level of organizational hierarchy. We found that individuals perceive greater dehumanization in hierarchical (vs. flat) organizations, which leads them to punish wrongdoing in the organization less, and subsequently triggers the perpetuation of wrongdoing. 

Jiyin Cao
Stony Brook University
United States

Siyu Yu
Rice University
United States


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