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Why Do Groups Protect Immoral Group Members?

Ashwini Ashokkumar and Bill Swann: Which members of a group are most likely to prioritize group reputation over moral principles? We assumed that group members whose identities are “fused” with the group would be particularly inclined to try to protect the group. Identity fusion is a psychological experience that involves a feeling of oneness with a group. Research has shown that strongly fused group members are most likely to engage in extreme behaviors that promote the well-being and success of their group. When such people encounter a moral violation within the group, the threat to the group’s reputation feels personal, which motivates them to go to great lengths to protect the group’s reputation. We also assumed that group leaders should be particularly likely to prioritize the group’s reputation over moral concerns because they feel personally obligated to act in the group’s interests.

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