12 February 2010

Neglecting and rejecting personal responsibility

The rejection of responsibility is another disengagement mechanism (Bandura 1999). The perpetrator argues either that the act is committed without the intention to harm the victim or that the circumstances or “others” have forced the perpetrator to commit the acts. The perpetrator uses a perception of himself as externally controlled and, therefore, without personal responsibility for his immoral acts (Sykes & Matza 1957; Bandura 1999). Social-psychological research (Milgram 1974), as well as historical events such as the Holocaust (Tsang 2002), show us many examples of how people commit harmful and violent acts because authorities wanted them to do so. We may also find cases in which the person responsible for committing immoral acts feels as if he were a little part of a larger group. Hence, he perceives that his acts do not have major consequences and, in the end, he is not really hurting anybody. A clear example is the person who does not care about the environment because no one else does.

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