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Blaming the Hero

March 15, 2011

Victims are much more likely to be excused for bad behavior than heroes.



How to evade blame…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An accused criminal may be better off painting himself as a victim – of poverty or abuse, for example – than as a good person who made a mistake.  This according to University of Maryland psychologist Kurt Gray.  He and his colleagues gave volunteers fictional stories about people behaving badly.  Some of the characters had been victimized in the past, while others had a history of good deeds.  

KURT GRAY (University of Maryland):

And who were cast as heroes, those who had done a bunch of good deeds in the past – not only weren’t they assigned less blame than a neutral person, but oftentimes they were assigned more blame.  


The victims, on the other hand, were blamed the least, even though their past hardship was unrelated to their current offense.  Given the findings, Gray says it makes sense that public figures often play the victim when they’re caught doing something wrong.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.