Will you confess to what I did? Close relationships and in-group membership facilitate voluntary blame-taking

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Abstract

To learn more about why people falsely confess without external pressure, we examined voluntary blame-taking in three experiments. Drawing from theories of prosocial behavior and social identity, we investigated whether participants' blame-taking is influenced by (a) their relationship with the guilty person (Experiment 1) and (b) the group membership of the person asking to take the blame (Experiments 2a and 2b). In Experiment 1, participants (N = 130) considered whether they would take the blame for a small traffic violation for their best friend and a stranger in a vignette-scenario. As expected, intended blame-taking rates were higher for their best friend (60.8%) than for a stranger (8.5%). Reported reasons for taking the blame included reciprocity and empathy. In Experiments 2a and 2b (Ns = 60; 89), we tested actual blame-taking behavior in two field experiments, using a new experimental paradigm. An experimenter approached participants and asked them to commit insurance fraud for a broken camera. Participants who shared the same group as the person in need were more willing to take the blame (47%-48%) than participants who were from a different group (21%-23%). The most frequently listed reason for taking the blame was empathy. Implications for the occurrence of voluntary blame-taking behavior to protect someone else are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Early online date28 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • ALTRUISM
  • ATTITUDES
  • BEHAVIOR
  • EMPATHY
  • FALSE CONFESSIONS
  • INTERROGATION
  • INTERVENTION
  • KINSHIP
  • PERSONALITY

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