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The victim-perpetrator asymmetry is stronger in situations where blame is being assigned
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology  (IF3.603),  Pub Date : 2021-05-14, DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2021.104164
RandyJ. McCarthy, Alison K. Rivers, Audra P. Jensen, Joy S. Pawirosetiko, Jennifer M. Erickson

Aggressive behaviors occur when one person, a perpetrator, intentionally harms another person, a victim (e.g., Parrott & Giancola, 2007). When reporting their judgments, victims often report the aggressive behaviors as being more harmful than perpetrators—a so-called victim-perpetrator asymmetry. This asymmetry is well-established (Baumeister et al., 1990; Elshout et al., 2017; Ent & Parton, 2019; McCarthy & Rivers, 2021); however, there is little empirical evidence that experimentally tests the conditions under which the victim-perpetrator asymmetry is especially strong. We propose two studies to examine whether the victim-perpetrator asymmetry is stronger in conditions when people feel they will be evaluated for blameworthiness. Specifically, in our first proposed study, participants will read a vignette describing an aggressive interaction and will be assigned to adopt the perspective of either the victim or the perpetrator. In our second proposed study, participants will either recall an instance when they intentionally harmed another person (as the perpetrator of aggression) or an instance when they were harmed by another person (as the victim of aggression). Further, in both studies, half the participants will be told we are interested in determining who was more to blame in the situation (i.e., “blameworthiness” condition) and half will receive no such instructions (i.e., the control condition). All participants will then rate the harmfulness of the aggressive behavior. We hypothesize that the victim-perpetrator asymmetry will be found in both conditions but will be stronger in situations where blame will purportedly be assigned.