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Video: Albert Bandura On Disabling Moral Responsibility - Self-development
We offer you to get acquainted with the interview of Albert Bandura, dedicated to the disabling of moral responsibility - one of the main topics that the famous Canadian and American psychologist has been studying for many years.
My name is Albert Bandura. I would like to briefly share my ideas on mechanisms for disabling moral responsibility *. This is what puzzled me. If you analyze the research that has been carried out in the field of moral activity *, you will find that they are mainly aimed at studying how a person develops moral standards, standards of "right" and "wrong", which direct and deter aggressive behavior in interpersonal interaction.
Because of these moral standards, we were supposed to take actions that give us pride and dignity. We try not to violate our standards, as this leads to self-condemnation. Thus, we build our behavior in accordance with these standards.
It puzzled me that most of the inhuman actions in peaceful life are committed by people who are compassionate and humane in other areas of their activities. And I set myself the task of explaining why good people can do cruel things. So, the adoption of standards is only half the battle, and I was less interested in this, because these moral standards do not consistently operate on our behavior. We have the ability to selectively turn them on or off. A person can be extremely compassionate and empathetic, and at the same time cruel. For example, the head of a prison camp writes a very touching letter to his sick father, but at some point looking out the window he sees a prisoner who, it seemed to him, is not doing his job hard enough. And, drawing out a revolver, he kills him. In this example, the camp leader shows remarkable compassion and sensitivity, and at the same time - barbaric cruelty. The difference here is that we include someone in our category of people, and exclude someone from it.
The work I have done is trying to define the mechanisms by which people enable moral responsibility and selectively disable it.
So we settled on eight different mechanisms. Three of them operate on human behavior: behavior becomes useful for another person, at a time when it inherently harms the same person. And the most powerful of these mechanisms is moral justification. We justify our destructive behavior by actions that are meaningful to us, which are important for us to complete. Voltaire put it very well when he said that "the one who is able to persuade to believe in fables, is able to persuade to commit atrocities." Thus, we commit many murders in the name of religious principles, political ideology, national concept and the like.
The second mechanism that transforms human behavior is the ennobling of speech with the help of euphemisms and convoluted sentences, which masks the damage done to us.
The third mechanism is a lucrative comparison, in which our own inhuman actions seem insignificant in comparison to egregious cruelty. This is how the terrorist identifies himself with the population in such a way that he feels how rude and cruel the society has treated him, and as a result he sees his behavior as martyrdom and the like.
These three mechanisms are powerful enough because they not only absolve destructive behavior from moral responsibility, but also, by justifying human behavior, incorporate moral standards into the mission of destructive behavior. By shifting responsibility * and diffusing responsibility *, the other two mechanisms give importance to the functioning of destructive behavior.
We often cite Milgram's experiment as an illustrative example of a shift in responsibility. But in real life, the influence of authority is different, since authority does not directly create destructive politics. We use a latent form of power influence with an intricate structure. And such a system of power allows us to build the ability to disavow the actions of a subordinate. Because, firstly, no one wants to be held responsible in the event of a failed policy, and, secondly, you need to live with a clear conscience and without blood on your hands. This is why we have an intricate system of irresponsibility. And therefore, a difficult case is treated as a separate incident. And in such cases, you accuse your subordinates of either misunderstanding or excessive initiative.
There is another important point in Milgram's experiment. Representatives of the authorities, giving orders, took responsibility for any damage caused and were close to their subordinates. In a real system of power, you eliminate good performers from your environment. And here it is important to distinguish between these two layers of responsibility. The perpetrators, showing respect for the authorities, correlate their actions with its policies, and they do not take responsibility for any destructive behavior. Thus, with the help of hidden authorization and double loyalty, you get very effective performers who do not require your presence and, at the same time, you get a spray of responsibility.
There are three ways to create a spray of responsibility. The first way is through group decision making. The second way is through the activity of a separate small group of people (fractionation). Outside of society, the activities of a small group of people look innocent, but inside society, such activities are destructive. And the third way is through the group action itself: you can act anonymously, and you always have the opportunity to claim that other people were in fact responsible for the group action. Napoleon once said that "mass crimes are not sane."
The third mechanism for diffusing responsibility is related to the elimination of the consequences of your actions. You do not give grounds for activating moral principles if you deny, or minimize, or dispute that your actions have caused harm. And it will take a lot of effort to clarify the consequences. For example, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the village community of Milai depicting a fleeing girl attacking with napalm bombs  may have done more than all newspaper articles to evoke a sickening feeling for the Vietnam War. After Vietnam, the military concluded that the press should not be allowed into the combat zone. And the press was not allowed into the war zone in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. This is how we got the Al-Jazeera TV channel ,which broadcast the proceedings of the devastating consequences of hostilities. The last two mechanisms operate by attributing blame to the victim. So, by doing your actions, at the same time you dehumanize the victim and may even feel fair. Challenging the idea that the victim is worthy of being human is a good way to avoid showing empathy for her, and also to destroy the sense of belonging to the entire human race.
Another area of my research into human moral activity is to show the power of dehumanization so that a person can prove himself to be the worst person of all people, and to show the power of humanization so that a person can prove himself to be the best person of all people.
 Here, probably, Albert Bandura's two historical events were intertwined into one: the attack of a group of children, in the center of which stood out a naked girl with a face distorted from pain, napalm bombs (1972) and a war crime committed by American soldiers in the village of Milai (1968). What both events have in common is that they were photographed, published in print media, made a big impression on American society, and the Pulitzer Prize was awarded for photographs of these two events.
 Al Jazeera became famous for covering the air and missile strikes by the coalition forces on Afghanistan and broadcasting Osama bin Laden's statements on his air.
* - Key concepts of Albert Bandura::
Moral activity (moral agency) manifests itself in two ways: both at the moment of keeping oneself from inhuman behavior, and at the moment of the proactive force of the manifestation of humane behavior. Moral activity is a part of Albert Bandura's social-cognitive theory of the “I” system. (Bandura, A. (2002). Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education, 31, 101-119.; Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychology Review. [Special Issue on Evil and Violence], 3, 193-209).
Moral disengagement: Bandura (1986) argued that humans are capable of disengaging moral responsibility. A person wants to perceive himself as a person who observes the requirements of ethical morality. Whenever he behaves unethically or illegally, he will invoke a set of beliefs or assumptions that justify or explain his behavior. These beliefs or assumptions balance his unethical behavior and his self-image as a moral person, eliminating feelings of dissonance. [psychlopedia. For the original description in English see bldg.].
Displacement of responsibility is a socio-psychological phenomenon. It lies in the fact that when the responsibility is shifted, a person avoids a sense of responsibility for his unethical behavior, shifting responsibility to another person. (Hinrichs, KT, Wang, L., Hinrichs, AT, & Romero, EJ (2012). Moral disengagement through displacement of responsibility: The role of leadership beliefs. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 62-80).
Diffusion of responsibility is a socio-psychological phenomenon. It lies in the fact that when responsibility is diffused, a person avoids taking personal responsibility for his behavior by distributing responsibility to members of a group with a similar pattern of behavior. (Hinrichs, KT, Wang, L., Hinrichs, AT, & Romero, EJ (2012). Moral disengagement through displacement of responsibility: The role of leadership beliefs. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 62-80).
Translation author: Cherkashina Angela