Being Human. Chapter 12: Morality: Competition, Justice And Cooperation
As we watch the news each day, and interact with others in society, our sense of right and wrong may often be aroused. There is a great deal of evidence in social psychology pointing to the negative effects of selfish and unbridled competition. People at times express extreme egoism in their behavior to the detriment of others, and the remedy may require legal sanctions. Fortunately, as we saw in the last chapter there are also people who seek to act in cooperative ways, and try to reconcile people in conflict. Conflict situations often call for moral judgment. What is right and wrong in the dispute and where is the common ground? Do you approve of murder as long as it is your enemy? How about killing in a just war as you have defined it? What about infanticide where illness or lack of resources makes the future seem impossible for the child? How about assisted suicide for the hopelessly ill? These issues and many other challenges all require moral judgment.
Perhaps you have taken note of how people live in other countries and cultures. Some behaviors like polygamy or polyandry may strike you as odd, but do they also require moral judgment? In that case we can see that moral judgment is not universally similar as social conventions vary on marriage and other social practices in different cultures. How about a situation where parents deliberatively starve their children to death? Is that universally rejected, do you think people find that acceptable in any culture? Deliberate killing of children is probably not acceptable in modern societies, so there is also evidence for some universality of moral judgment.
1. Moral judgment and culture
How we define morality is of primary concern in moral judgment. What do we use to guide our thinking as we make judgment about right or wrong, good or bad? People rely on guides to live a life that is ethically acceptable. Some people use religious or humanistic scripture to make moral choices. Others believe they hear a little internal voice that warns them of moral compromise. Ethical principles determine a great deal of social behavior, from the paying of money owed to the election of government leaders and political parties. Moral judgment is central in the so-called war on terrorism. It has influenced both sides in the war on their attitudes toward killing and who might be considered innocent parties to the conflict. One side thinks that there are no innocent “infidels”; the other side defines all military opposition as terrorism. Nevertheless both positions are moral judgments based on ethics, which are derived from custom, religion, and social categorization.
1.1 Defining moral behavior
Morality is defined as the principles that guides our lives and which we use in making judgments about the behavior of others (Haidt, 2001). In a broader sense morality is what we consider ideal the utopian society that we hope for in the future. Moral principles incur obligations on us, and to a large extent determine our behavior toward self and others. Moral principles in society generally apply to all people. We would consider it hypocritical to tell our children to behave in a certain moral way, if we ourselves do not practice the same ethical principle. Likewise for a country if the morality of a society calls for peaceful relations with others it is hypocritical to carry unprovoked war to the shore of other nations. Moral principles are inclusive applying to everyone within the group, be it religious, nation, or other society. Human behavior is far from perfect, and we all violate moral obligations at times. Society, for instance, imposes a requirement not to steal from others in the community. If a member of the community violates this obligation society imposes sanctions. Sanctions vary widely in various cultures from a figuratively slap on the wrist to actually cutting off the offending hand in some Middle Eastern societies. Like in China, many states in the U.S. still have capital punishment for some crimes.
1.2 Culture and morality
Cross-cultural research points to support the universality of moral principles. For example children in various countries consider the idea of doing harm to others as immoral by age ten (Turiel, 2002). From evolutionary development humans have developed horror responses to the maiming and destruction of other humans, emotions that we share with other primates. Humans everywhere deal with similar conditions of life that provide a universal basis for ethics and morality. Universal moral principles develop from common issues of our mortality, the issues around childrearing and maintaining the integrity of family life. These communalities, the universal experiences that we all have in common, are the basis of moral judgments in all cultures. Not harming others and promoting the sanctity of basic human rights appears to be universal. At the same time culture molds and rationalizes moral obligations creating cultural differences. The Taliban’s harsh punishment regime versus how similar offenses are treated in the West shows an extreme example of the cultural variations in both moral obligations and sanctions. Within society religious communities vary widely in the moral evaluations of different behaviors. For some societies sexual purity is of supreme importance, whereas others view human sexuality primarily as a social convention of choice.
Cultures differ in whether the behavior in question is considered a matter of absolute moral obligation or whether it is a social convention demanding conformity (Kohlberg, 1976; Turiel, 2002). Certain socio-political concepts are presented as matters of absolute moral judgment including values such as freedom of the individual, individual rights, and equality before the law. Other societies because of their cultural history including the influence of religion have a broader definition of morality that includes personal sexual purity (Rozin, Lowery, Imada, & Haidt, 1999; Vasquez, Keltner, Ebenbach, & Banaszynski, 2001). Religions have purification rites in many cultures, which are incumbent on all members of society including baptism in Christian churches.
In all societies it is possible to distinguish between moral transgressions referring to the violation of the rights of others, and the violation of social convention referring to rules governing acceptable behavior. Social convention determines how we dress, how we wear our hair, and how we decorate our bodies. Social conventions also circumscribe how to address and salute others, the basic rules of courtesy that maintain social distance and privacy. The main difference between cultures is that in some societies moral transgressions are viewed as violations of social conventions to be sanctioned with a raised eyebrow whereas in other societies similar transgressions are considered morally wrong. Comparing Indian and American participants in a study many behaviors that Americans saw as violation of convention were considered moral transgressions among Indian respondents (Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, & Park, 1997).
Schweder et al (1997) suggested that morality could be understood as based on three types of ethics. The ethic of autonomy emphasizes the rights and equality of the individual. An ethic of community defines the duties, status, social hierarchies, and the interdependence of members of groups. Individual members learn about social roles and sense of identity from this ethic. The ethic of divinity refers to personal purity guarding the individual from sinful behavior that degrade and contaminate life. Most people in the West would not pay much attention to personal purity seeing behavior as a personal choice. Yet, we can note from the use of language that people are often condemned even in the West when they appear as impure. The homeless and drug addicts are often chastised for being dirty and in need of physical and perhaps spiritual purification. The Salvation Army tries to meet the needs of both (bath and food).
2.3 Social cognition and morality
Some moral judgments are based on emotional intuition and without evaluative social cognition. All cultures condemn incest in moral terms that is often accompanied by expressions of disgust. Reaction to incestuous behavior tends to be immediate, nearly universal, and without complex rationalizations. However, culture may modify what type of relationship is considered incestuous, but once that is defined the reaction is immediate. Greene & Haidt (2002) and Haidt (2003) also showed that harm-related emotions and self-critical emotions brought immediate reactions, including increased prosocial behavior (Batson & Shaw, 1991), and moral behavior (Higgins, 1987; Keltner & Anderson, 2000). Feelings of awe are felt in the praising of the noble behavior of others (Haidt, 2003; Keltner & Haidt, 2003). Disgust and contempt, on the other hand, underlie what is considered immoral behavior of others. These moral reactions are intuitive and seem to occur automatically without any cognitive rationalizations.
Moral thinking parallels results from studies in social cognition (see chapter 4). As you might remember some cognitive responses are automatic whereas others require complex cognition. For most people stem cell research requires conscious deliberation of the issues before coming to a moral judgment. Kohlberg (1976) demonstrated the stages of the moral development over time from the very ego-centeredness in young children to the broader moral perspective of parents that might focus on values like freedom and equality. The highest stage of moral development in Kohlberg’s theory take on a perspective independent of the morality of society. For example slavery was always wrong regardless of social convention since it proscribed individual choice and did harm.
Today moral judgments are made in the context of a changing modern society. We live in a world of increasing scientific progress and technology. It could be an ideal world where for the first time in history we are able to meet human needs for health and justice. How are we doing? The 21st century appears to be no improvement on the 20th as wars are riveting the planet, genocide remains, the AIDS epidemic continues unchecked, and human desperation accumulates. How is it that this state of affairs is possible when we have the means and knowledge to solve many of these problems? The remainder of this chapter will seek to outline the problems that emanate from competition, from issues arising from injustice, and what we have learned about cooperative solutions.
2. Competition and conflict morality
Envy and competition have roots in early human history, just read the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. The struggle for survival touches on the fundamental conflict over power, status, and perceived scarce resources. Competition is responsible for the ingroup-outgroup distinction that comes so easy to humanity. At times competition becomes magnified because there are real differences in resources that separate people, and these limitations lead to prejudice and conflict (Dollard, 1938; Jackson, 1993; Sherif, 1966). The capitalist system has from time to time experienced cycles of expansion and contractions, thus creating dislocations in the economy for many people and greater competition over limited resources. The classic study mentioned earlier (see chapter 10) demonstrated scapegoating (Hovland and Sears, 1940), when they correlated the price of cotton in the southern Unites States with the number of lynchings of Blacks. Cotton was so basic to the Southern economy that whenever the price of cotton dropped, poor whites were laid off and many found easy scapegoats among poor blacks to blame for their misfortune. This historical study demonstrated the link between prejudice, discrimination, perceived competition, and violence. The later study by Sherif et al (1961) on competition in a boys’ camp emphasized the effect of ingroup cohesiveness and competition on behavior toward outgroups. Fortunately, by establishing superordinate goals for the competitors, the investigators were able to turn things around and create more inclusive attitudes and behavior. Competition can create conflict that turns totally innocent targets into scapegoats (Allport, 1954; Gemmill, 1989). The essence of scapegoating is the misdirection of anger toward powerless groups of people who are disliked, and visible in significant ways. The new reality in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Euro-communism did not produce more cooperation in the quest for superordinate goals of integration, but unleashed conflict as ethnic and national groups turned feelings of frustration and anger toward minority groups. We saw ethnic conflicts and hostility in the wars that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. These misplaced feelings of anger continue to dominate current thinking, and create scapegoats throughout the continent.
A new study (Fidler, 2007) ranked 121 countries according to their level of peace. Russia was ranked in the bottom five, and the United States ranked in the bottom 30 between Yemen and Iran. The study supported the contention that the number of armed conflicts has increased since the 1990s laying to rest any discussion of a peace dividend emerging from the changing circumstances in Eastern Europe. The U.S. ranking (number 96) was attributed to high military spending and the continued engagements in conflicts far beyond its border. The high prison population in the United States (that is the highest per capita in the world) also contributed to its poor showing. The countries ranked highest for peacefulness were Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, and Ireland. The Middle East not surprisingly produced the least peaceful rankings with Iraq followed by Sudan and Israel. The main variables contributing to peace within a nation were identified as the level of education, and the degree of regional integration. This study identified competition as the dominant morality in conflicts. The study however could not distinguish any common factor that could account for peacefulness toward other countries.
Competition and conflict occur at the interpersonal, intergroup, as well as at the international level. Adolescents commonly report several conflicts each day (Jensen-Campbell, & Graziano, 2000). Among married couples conflict is more likely than among people who know each other causally. Interdependence is an essential quality of conflict (McGonagle, Kessler, & Schilling, 1992). For married couples the fight is often about the use of resources, as well as a fair distribution of work and money (Fincham, 2003). Stress is likely to contribute to scapegoating activities in conflict situations (Bradbury, Rogge, & Lawrence, 2001). Since people are interdependent at several levels conflict may occur over a variety of issues. At the interpersonal level frustrating behaviors, violations of norms, and our beliefs about the personal intentions of the competitor are causes of conflict. At the intergroup level conflict is the result of real and imagined competition over resources, also an incentive for conflict at the international level. At the latter level, conflict may also be promoted by competing ideologies (communism versus capitalism; Muslim versus Christian), and differing histories and cultures. However, all these potential conflicts are centered on competition over perceived scarce resources (material or ideological), and a desire to be in control of the outcome.
2.1 Pursuing selfish versus the common interests
At the center of many conflicts is the contradiction between egoistic advantage and the interests of society. Most of the grievous problems afflicting the world today are a consequence of individual selfish short-term interests prevailing over long-term common welfare. Global warming for example is the result of small incremental individual actions over a long-term period of history. For too long we have disregarded the cumulative effects of the use of the automobile and electricity (the most shameless use of which is in the gambling capitol of the U.S.: Las Vegas, and similar venues), and the accumulating effects of other forms of pollution. The pursuance of our individual selfish interests comes at a great cost to our neighbors, our society, and, in time, the welfare of the world. More and more people recognize the truth that through globalization no country is an island and global warming will affect all.
We are more and more interconnected and developments in one part of the world inevitably affect outcomes far away (Wright, 2000). Despite globalization the international community remains a world of tension and conflict both between countries and within them (Hunter, 1991). Although birthrates have fallen in many countries they continue to remain stable or increase in countries that can least afford to feed additional mouths. China is the exception with their one-child policy even though they now have a population exceeding 1.3 billion. In many poor countries having additional children is seen as essential to survival in old age, but individual survival makes the collective life more burdensome. The Earth can only produce so much, yet we live in a finite world as if the resources are infinite. People’s behavior are dominated by the thinking that individual acts are separate from the collective welfare. Some people reason that taking the car instead of walking to the grocery store nearby, or using air conditioning in excess of comfort does not impact much on pollution. Meanwhile these small individual selfish acts are killing the Earth.
2.1.1 The prisoner’s dilemma, tit for tat, and commons games
The prisoners’ dilemma game is the most frequently used laboratory analogy used to research and understand the effects of competitive behavior (Dawes, 1991). The participant arrives at the laboratory and is shown into a cubicle and informed that another participant is close by in another cubicle. Each of the participants is required to make a basic decision either to cooperate, a decision from which both will benefit, or to “defect” (to compete). Choosing competition will benefit the participant if the second player decides to cooperate. However, if both players decide to “defect” then the payoff will be significantly smaller.
The name of the game comes from a story about two prisoners (Luce & Raiffa, 1957) who are jointly guilty of a crime. There is only enough evidence to convict both of a less significant offense. The prosecutor interviews each man individually explaining that if one man confesses to the crime the information will be used to convict the other prisoner who will be given the maximum sentence and he, the interviewee will be set free. If both confess they will each receive a moderate sentence. So there is an advantage to be gained for one side if one prisoner confesses, but the other does not. The confessing prisoner will go free; the other gets the maximum penalty. The problem becomes one of trying to figure out what the other prisoner will do. If he does not confess, but you do you will go free, definitely a desirable outcome. However, if you both decide to cooperate you will each get only a moderate sentence. Would you cooperate under these conditions, or would you hope the other prisoner will not talk to the prosecutor while you plan to nail him for the offense? Can you trust your fellow prisoner to do the right thing and not confess? If you both cooperate the strategy would produce a moderate sentence, and this may be the best payoff to be expected.
Decisions in dyads, small groups, and international relations seem to follow a similar pattern of prisoner’s dilemma games. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of, and therefore fall victim to the fundamental attribution error in ascribing the worst motives to the other side. There may be some advantage in keeping the world in a state of terror since we have at least not seen nuclear conflict since the end of World War 2. Nevertheless think of all the wealth utterly wasted, and the talents of scientists that could have been put to productive use. Think of the vicarious wars and hostility that continue because nations are trapped in prisoners’ dilemmas unable to trust the opponent. While deterrence may have worked with the threat of nuclear extermination, it had not worked for conventional warfare as more wars have been fought precisely during the times the world was most heavily armed (Sivard, 1991).
The “ideology” of a competitive society primes us to act selfishly. Prior to playing a prisoner’s dilemma game the experimenter flashed subliminally 22 words with a hostile connotation (hostile, unfriendly), and to another group a similar list of neutral words (looked, house). Did the game participants exposed to hostile words act differently from those with the neutral word exposure? The answer is yes, even though the exposure was subliminally and not registered consciously, 84 percent of the participants in the subliminally hostile condition “defected” and did not cooperate, compared to only 55 percent in the neutral condition (Neuberg, 1988). The attributions we make of the other party’s intent are what matter in the prisoners’ dilemma game. When we believe other people will act competitively we adopt a similar strategy right from the start.
Defining the situation as either competitive or not may determine game behavior prior to any interaction. Lieberman, Samuels, & Ross, (2002) told their participants that they were either playing a “Wall Street game” or a “community game”. The investigators wanted to know if merely labeling (framing) the game would be sufficient in producing differences in behavior. It did. Those playing the community game cooperated twice as much as did those playing “Wall Street”, and these initial differences persisted over the remaining rounds of the game. Evidently labeling the game “Wall Street” set in motion competitive schemas and expectations that contributed to competitiveness. The problem with the dilemma is that when a participant first gets locked into a competitive mode it is difficult to change to cooperation during the interaction. In other words competition begets competition, and once started continues for its duration (Kelley & Stahelski, 1970). Escalating competition in any arena is an irrational response since the competition lowers the outcome for all the participants.
Do these games have relevance to the international community and the arms race? The cold war required tremendous expenditures in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. These expenditures could have been used for clothing, food and medicines that would have improved the standard of living of all people in each camp. However, the arms race was all about attributions of the intentions of the other side. Each step in the arms race required a matching response (Dawes, 1980).
As we know the real world involves more than two players. The Nuts game (Edney, 1979) was developed to see how people would behave when more than two players participated. Some have called the social dilemmas involving many players the “Commons” or “Social traps” (Hardin, 1968; Platt, 1973). There are many social dilemmas that require cooperation of multiple actors for maximal utility including migration, reduction of pollution, and reduction of greenhouse gasses. In all these crises millions of people seemingly contribute only an infinite small part to the problem that nevertheless accumulate and threatens the future of human kind. In the Nuts game several participants sit around a bowl containing ten metal nuts. The goal of the game is to accumulate as many nuts as possible. Each participant is free to take as many nuts as he wants. However, the catch is that every 10 seconds whatever nuts are left in the bowl are doubled. Would you leave nuts in the bowl and hope the other players do the same for the collective much larger long-term return? Apparently most people would not as 65 percent of the groups never got to the second round replacement having taken all the nuts on the first trial.
The so-called tit-for-tat game strategy was developed by Axelrod (1984). In a tournament that utilized 14 different strategies for the prisoner’s dilemma game the winning strategy was an effective tit-for-tat strategy. The strategy is simple in requiring the player to cooperate on the first round, and subsequently matching the decision of the other player on each following round. The opponent’s cooperation is rewarded immediately, while “defection” leads to an immediate competitive response. The Tit-for-tat strategy did not win every round of the game, but did produce the overall best results. Why? Because it invited cooperation and was not envious, as it produced the best long-term result even if in the short term the maximum was not obtained. Also, the player was not likely to be exploited since if the opponent chose a competitive response it would be met in kind. At the same time, the strategy immediately forgave the transgressor by rewarding the next cooperative move. As you can imagine the strategy was not difficult to learn as the players figured it out after playing the game for just a short time. After a few rounds the consequences of every move were clear, and the players would understand that individual as well group outcome would be maximal when choosing cooperative moves in the prisoners dilemma type game.
Could you apply this strategy to your interpersonal relationships, with siblings or friends? Could nations utilize a similar strategy with regard to disarmament? What about the placement of the so-called missile defense system the United States wanted initially to place in Poland and the Czech republic in 2007? It was interesting to observe that Russia tested a new ICBM with multiple warheads capable of defeating the missile defense system almost immediately. In the convoluted world of the arms race the nonzero sum games have usually been played out to exhaustion, but every so often we also see a tit-for-tat strategy. A cooperative response (in the eyes of the opponent) is met with a cooperative response, and a competitive response (such as missiles on the door-steps of Russia) results in escalation.
2.1.2 The fundamental attribution error and the world of ideological competition
We have observed how initial competition leads to more competitive responses in the laboratory. Do people behave in similar ways in the world today? If we examine the news of any given day we observe a world torn apart by ideological conflict, with opponents labeling each other as evil in absolute moralist terms. We have seen in other research how people possess ingroup bias, but the extremity of that bias in the real world cannot be underestimated. On the whole we perceive of our own group as good and virtuous, the reservoir of all that is morally right whereas the opponent is seen as evil or as possessing incomprehensible ideologies. The fundamental attribution error is in full play when opponents perceive each other as having hostile intent and as a threat to survival (Plous, 1985).
In applying the fundamental attribution error to opponents people overlook all that human beings have in common. Despite cultural differences human beings not only share nearly all of their genetic inheritance, but also many cultural values. The tiny differences exiting in genetic inheritance primarily concern physical appearance of little importance. The areas of ideological agreement are also vastly larger than those of disagreement if we examine issues objectively (Robinson, Keltner, & Ross, 1991). In a study on abortion the participants opposing each other were asked to indicate their abortion related beliefs. They also estimated the beliefs of members of the opposing side. This allowed participants to compare their perceptions with the actual beliefs of the opposing supporters. The fundamental attribution error was clearly displayed since opponents exaggerated differences, and overestimated the gap between each position. The two sides were more likely to see their opponents as extremists rather than to look for common ground. Faulty and misguided construal in social conflict makes it difficult or impossible to find common values and interests. Being raised in competitive societies we assume, prior to interaction, that opponents will automatically take a competitive strategy with long-term loss being certain, and catastrophe possible. We also employ the fundamental attribution error that makes it almost certain that we do not intend to find common ground (Robinson, Keltner, Ward, & Ross, 1995).
2.1.3 Solving the problems generated by individual selfishness against the common good
The problems of communication discovered in game theory and in research on the fundamental attribution error where opponents assume the worst possible motives, appear to be universal and not easily solved. Since these problems are ingrained in our psychological constructs we cannot rely on individual free will to solve problems with terrible destructive consequences. Societies have developed regulations and laws to counteract the selfish inclinations of human nature in order to ensure the common welfare. There are international regulations governing whale hunts, test ban treaties controlling weapons testing in space, and litter laws in the cities. All regulations and laws seek to counteract the perceived egoistic advantage gained at the expense of the collective. Are we doing enough? We would not have the crisis in global warming if previous efforts to control emissions had been successful. The insidious nature of these dilemmas is that the damage is done in such small incremental steps that few people notice it. Furthermore, there is a significant time lapse between the warnings of scientists and the response by politicians and still later by the general population. There are many ways that we could individually help promote the common good. For example we could each take small steps to help solve global warming by changing normal light bulbs for more efficient types. Still relative few have taken these obvious steps, and most people still behave to their individual advantage, even though they along with everyone else will suffer the consequences if global warming continues.
In chapter 11 we argued that the survival of the world depends on us making altruism more central to our culture. Most people adhere to the norm of social responsibility if they understand that a crisis is occurring. Reciprocity and equity in sharing the burdens of life are norms that could also be utilized in order to gain the public support for the necessary steps needed to put the planet back in balance. Most people will adhere to these norms when they see proper applications (Kerr, 1992). Even in non-zero sum games altruistic appeals to give up individual advantage for the common good have worked (Dawes (1980).
One area of research of interest to the common good is the complexity of thinking. Being able to see a problem from several perspectives is related to conflict resolution (Suedfeld & Tetlock, 1977; Tetlock, 1981, 1984). The research showed that complex social issues require the ability to assess the problem through what the investigators called integrative complexity. The ability to differentiate a problem in arriving at a judgment is fundamental to complex thinking. For example, abortion is not a simple issue except to those who hold extreme positions. When does life begin, when has a fetus developed consciousness, when is pain felt? Is it better to abort a child condemned to a lifetime of suffering or is all life sacred? What should be the role of the mother and the father in any abortion decision? You can probably think of many other related questions with regard to abortion. The second aspect of integrative complexity is the ability to integrate varying cognition. Integrative complexity refers to an individual’s ability to connect different facets of the issue.
Tetlock found that people who hold extreme opinions are less complex compared to those with more moderate opinions. Integrative complexity is also related to tolerance, and the ability to consider the opponent’s argument on issues. In examining the cold war Tetlock found evidence that complex rhetoric used during crises in international relations led to solutions or at least the aversion of nuclear catastrophe.
3. Competition morality: Stress and health psychology
Although health is a result of many complex factors there are important psychological components, especially the presence of stress that contribute to illness. An individualistic, narcissistic and competitive society creates stress for people in a variety of ways. People seek escape in a society that is nonrewarding in meeting the human need for solidarity. Victims of stress often find refuge in health endangering practices. Tobacco and drug abuse throughout the Western world are a manifestation of stress and alienation. In the United States as in other countries, these health-destroying practices have been complemented with an overeating crisis. The obesity epidemic is “gaining ground” on tobacco as a major source of ill health. People eat more and larger portions of frequently unhealthy food, which in turn contribute to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic disorders (Los Angeles Times, 2004). Obesity related deaths in the U.S. are now estimated at 400,000 a year, a significant increase over the past decades.
Few doubt today the link between stressful lives and illness (Taylor, 2003). Stress is experienced both physiologically and psychologically. The arousal caused by stress puts the body in a fight or flight mode, where the heart is working overtime and blood pressure increases. Psychologically, when stressed, your attention tends to be focused on the event causing the stress and to disregard all else in life. Such obsessive thinking keeps the stress constantly present (Holman & Silver, 1998). Over time stress wears the body down. It stands to reason that a body constantly armored for action will eventually bear the physiological consequences. Stress has been related to a variety of diseases including cancer and heart disease (Friedman & Rosenman, 1974; Selye, 1976).
Stress is a psychological construct because it starts at the level of perception. It is psychological because not all people react the same way to stressful events. For some people divorce is the end of the world as they know it, for others it is but a new beginning. We all interpret events in different ways depending on our psychological background and personal hardiness. Events are primarily stressful, because they are perceived as such (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Still when stress related diseases reach epidemic proportions we must assume that society contributes as well. In competitive societies there is much that threatens people or is perceived harmful while there are few effective coping strategies.
In the portfolio list of stressful events the most unpleasant are those that have no immediate solution. These events are often unpredictable, and are not easily solvable (Bandura, Cioffi, Taylor, & Broullard, 1988). When some situation is uncontrollable or unpredictable it is difficult to develop adequate coping strategies. How do we deal with a spouse that “flies off the handle’ at the slightest of provocations? How can the international community effectively cope with the threat of “rogue” nations when their responses are often unpredictable? At times a situation is not only unpredictable, but also ambiguous (Billings & Moos, 1984). You may find yourself wondering about the message conveyed in the aftermath of a conversation with your boss. Was he approving of your work, or were his comments meant as a warning to step up the pace. Any situation that leads to a lower sense of control is experienced as stressful. European and American workers have faced many difficult changes as a result of globalization. Entire industries are no more, and workers have had to train for new, lower paying and insecure jobs. But there is still a McDonalds around the corner in the Western world with cheap, calorie rich food to divert attention for a short time.
3.1 Stress and culture
We respond to stress in the context of social relationships and culture. Therefore, to counteract stress, relationships and society must be involved (Tucker & Mueller, 2000). We have repeatedly referred to the differences between interdependent and independent societies in this book. In independent societies appeals to adopt better health habits frequently focus the individual changes that are needed. However, more and more we are learning that social support is important in coping with stress related health harming habits even in Western countries. The various self-help groups discussed in the previous chapter 11 are all based on the efficacy of social support. Weight loss is more successful in a group situation than when tried individually for many complex reasons (Brownell, Stunkard, & McKeon, 1985). Involving spouses and children in coping with stress related health-habits is useful. People are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors when they feel they have support from intimate others (Catania, Coates, Stall, Bye, Kegeles, & Capell, 1991).
In interdependent cultures the social network is of even greater importance in establishing healthy lifestyle habits. For example smoking cessation depends greatly on supportive social networks among Hispanic smokers (Marin, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, Sabogal, & Perez-Stable, 1989). Moreover, the fear of losing social support may lead HIV victims to withhold crucial information about their infection, and as a result ironically they will not get the support they need (Mason, Marks, Simoni, Ruiz, & Richardson, 1995). In interdependent cultures successful appeals for healthier lifestyles are more effectively directed toward the social network. In individualistic cultures appeals might be effective if based on already accepted norms of social responsibility to live healthy lifestyles.
3.2 Health and lifestyles
Health is the outcome of the complex interactions of many factors including genetic predispositions to various illnesses, environmental exposures, social support for a healthy life style, and stress. Good health is at least partly determined by the life styles we chose and actively pursue (Kaplan, 2000). If taken seriously healthy lifestyles can save a great deal of misery and expenses that come with chronic illness. A detrimental lifestyle is thought to contribute to all major categories of ill health in the United States and probably in most of the world. Cancer could be reduced significantly, probably by 25-30 percent, if people would quit smoking (American Cancer Society, 1989). Diet is clearly related to heart disease and diabetes, while drunk driving causes highway fatalities. Overeating and drunk driving are life style choices with short and long-term consequences. In a classic study on health behaviors the investigators identified seven important health habits including sleeping proper hours, not smoking, eating breakfast, no more than one or two alcoholic drinks per day, and keeping the weight within 10 percent of the ideal weight. The study was based on interviews with 6,000 people living in California. The participants were asked how many of these health behaviors they practiced, the illnesses they suffered from, and their energy levels. The results showed that the more health habits the respondents practiced the better their health, and the higher their experienced energy levels. We have a choice in our lifestyles, and these in turn have significant effects on our health and well-being.
3.3 Attitudes toward health and consequences
Do beliefs and attitudes about health matter in the pursuit of good health? Researchers have identified several beliefs effective in moderating health related behaviors (Bandura, 1986; Weinstein, 1993). General health values such as an interest in well-being, and the belief that the individual is personally vulnerable to illness are among important beliefs. Also significant are ideas of self-efficacy; i.e., that the individual can respond effectively to the health risk believing that the response will remove the threat. These beliefs are related to a variety of health related behaviors including the reduction or elimination of smoking, risky sexual behavior, and obesity (Taylor, 2003). People are constantly reminded of their failure in reducing obesity. Each new reduction program promotes the idea that the product will enable the client to become more effective. If a person does not possess self-efficacy and believe it possible to respond effectively to health threats he/she has in effect learned helplessness. Self-efficacy is also important in quitting smoking (Borland, Owen, Hill, & Schofield, 1991; Sheeran, Conner, & Norman, 2001). When people believe they can modify a particular behavior half the battle is won.
Impulsiveness plays a role in some health threatening behaviors. Many risky behaviors occur spontaneously as a result of particular circumstances. Unprotected sex is typically unplanned behavior, and drug or alcohol abuse usually starts with peer seduction, and only gradually turns into a problem (MacDonald, Zanna, & Fong, 1996). Young people often do not see the relevance of health related behaviors since youth foster illusions of invulnerability. Another problem related to health is relative economic affluence or poverty. A woman might believe a mammogram is helpful in detecting breast cancer. In most European countries access to this procedure is free, but not in the U.S. If a woman there does not have the means she will not have access to this life saving procedure. Generally speaking low-income minorities typically have poorer health, and are likely to experience more stress. Since income disparity is widening in many parts of the world economic differences may contribute even more to poor health in the future (McCloud & Kessler, 1990).
Health education is an important vehicle to inform and empower people to change health related attitudes and behaviors. The average viewer of television is often confronted with public service messages on health related practices. Research indicates that some of these messages are effective in changing attitudes and behavior (Atkin, 1979). At the same time products that encourage ill health including tobacco and alcohol advertisements that still dominate billboards and media in many parts of the world. Although now controlled in the United States to some degree, the use of these products by popular media personalities in movies or on television undo much of the education on the risks of these products.
3.4 Stress, Social support and illness
Competition and the struggle for survival produce stress with negative consequences for health. Typically the outcomes are not immediate, but stress provides the platform from which illness eventually emerges (Taylor, 2003). Once the body is armored in response to stress the bodily reactions often become chronic. Environmental conditions such as overcrowding contribute to feelings of stress, and inhibit prosocial behaviors (Taylor, Repetti, & Seeman, 1997). Many other situations are considered stressful including major life events like changing jobs or majors in University, or the loss of loved ones. Some of these events are existential to life, meaning that all people in the world have similar experiences. However, cultures differ in the amount of social support extended. The same event may be experienced as more stressful in a competitive independent culture when compared to an interdependent culture where individuals have extensive networks of social support. In modern competitive life people fight for space everywhere. Traffic is a daily stressor for many people in the world, as are continuous conflict with others (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Schilling, 1989). These daily problems have accumulating effects over time that contribute to illness (Kohn, Lafreniere, & Gurevich, 1991).
The competitive nature of many societies not only produces income disparity, but also has diverging health consequences. The relationship between lower economic class and health is well documented (Taylor et al, 1997). Our social environment including the presence or lack of resources determine the levels of stress experienced, and the general state of a person’s health. People living deprived lives have less knowledge about health, and fewer economic and social resources to help produce long and healthy lives. In competitive societies it is hard to escape the conclusion that the higher standard of living of some is bought at the expense of poorer health for the many. The social support experienced in more cooperative societies can be crucial to well being (Sarason, Sarason, & Gurung, 1997). Expressions of emotional concern can be life affirming, and reduce the effect of stress. The expression of feelings of liking and love may be crucial in dealing with the effects of an unrewarding society or life. Supportive relatives and friends provide the resources and information that reduce stress in difficult times (Broman, 1993).
The efficacy of social support has been demonstrated in numerous studies (Turner-Cob, Sephton, Koopman, Blake-Mortimer, & Spiegel, 2000). The beneficial effects include the speed by which people recover from illness, the reduction of physiological reactions to stress, and a more effective functioning in the face of chronic diseases (Taylor & Aspinwall, 1990). To trade the social support of a cooperative society for higher standards of material living is a high price to pay in the developing world (Bolger, Zuckerman, & Kessler, 2000).
3.5 Managing and coping with the effects of stress
Individual differences determine to a large extent success in coping with stress. Coping with stress includes efforts to reduce physiological arousal produced by stress using relaxation exercises such as muscle relaxation, meditation and deep breathing (English & Baker, 1983). It is interesting that many cultures have developed different methods for reducing the physiological consequences of stress including various forms of massage practiced today in many parts of the world. Taking a break from the daily grind can be very helpful in reducing physiological stress responses and might prevent these reactions from becoming chronic (Scheufele, 2000).
Coping strategies are made up from many sources in the life of the individual. Personal attributes and external resources including having sufficient money and social support determine the effectiveness of an individual’s coping style. Coping styles vary along several dimensions. Some individuals cope with stress by expressing hostility. A hostile coping style is harmful to the health of the individual and is related to coronary heart disease. People who express suspiciousness, anger, and resentment toward others often develop life threatening coronary complaints (Williams & Barefoot, 1988; Helmers, Krantz, Merz, Klein, Kop, & Gottdiener, 1995). Hostile individuals develop high blood pressure, and rapid heart rates that contribute to the disease over the long run, and lengthen the recovery time the body experiences from stressful events. Since coronary heart disease is a major cause of death in developed nations the relationship of hostility to this disease is important knowledge for the individual and his support system.
Some people seek to avoid situations that cause stress, and others will confront any stressor directly and take action. Different coping styles suggest complex outcomes. Those who avoid stress may cope better in the short run, but are not effective in dealing with persistent stress or threat. People who seek to avoid stress do not develop coping strategies dealing with future problems, since their current response is to not think about it. Eventually, those who cope by avoidance may live in a poor state of health (Smith, Ruiz, & Uchino, 2000). Those who face up to stress on the other hand may be affected negatively in the short run, since coping by confrontation involves some anxiety, but in the long run confrontation is more beneficial (Holahan & Moos, 1987).
We all have different personalities that relate to coping efficacy. Some people posses a high degree of internal optimism, and believe that life will essentially have good outcomes. This dispositional optimism affects the construal of stressful situations that is probably inculcated by comforting mother’s advice that “all is right”. People who are optimistic are also more likely to take direct action when faced with a stressor, and have fewer negative effects from stressful events (Chang, 1998; Segerstrom, Taylor, Kemeny, & Fahey, 1998). In recent years investigators have examined the relationship between stress and attitudes that are described as “hardiness” (Kobasa, 1997). Hardiness is associated with attitudes such as an internal sense of control, positive feelings of commitment, and a willingness to respond to challenges. When these attitudes are internalized they provide some protection from stress, making it more likely that the individual will cope successfully (Soderstrom, Dolbier, Leiferman, & Steinhardt, 2000). As we might guess a personality trait opposite to hardiness is neuroticism. Individuals who are neurotic are more likely to construe events as stressful, and react in ways that produce more symptoms. Lower levels of social support may account for some of the stress experienced by neurotics since most people find it unrewarding to be in the presence of defensive personalities (Gunthert, Armeli, & Cohen, 1999).
4. Justice morality
The disparity between the wages of workers and salaried employees and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of companies is increasing. The average CEO now makes a thousand times the salary of the worker. In general three types of justice are discussed in the literature. If the very rich would pay back the money they had unfairly accumulated we are describing restorative justice. Distributive justice refers to whether the employees have received their fair share of the goods distributed. Finally, procedural justice occurs when the reward system is considered trustworthy and produces outcomes in a legitimate fashion. Procedural justice include much research on legal processes involved in correctly identifying the guilty party in court proceedings, and creating unbiased judgments that encourage confidence in the law.
4.1 A just world and restorative justice
We know from chapter 9 that beliefs in a just world justify prejudice. However, the just world concept is a very significant belief and motivator in many societies, the belief the life produces expressed a match between people’s behavior and their outcomes. As noted, this desire for justice can and has been misused to keep the poor in their place, since the just world ideology proclaims that we get what we deserve. Injustice and the randomness by which fortune is handed out to people challenges these deeply held beliefs (Furnham, 1993; Lerner, 1980). However, the belief in a just world remains a motivator. When people become aware of injustice in treatment they seek to restore the imbalance (Hafer & Olson, 1993; Walster, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978). For example if people feel they are paid too much they respond by working harder trying to restore justice in compensation (Tyler & Smith, 1998). The simple lesson for companies worried about worker productivity is to pay the workers more than they deserve, then the workers then will respond by producing more, or is that a naïve thought? After all there exists a Dutch saying “as long as my boss claims that I earn much, I pretend to work hard”.
We can also restore justice by changing our minds about the victims of injustice. Victims of misfortune such as rape victims are often accused of being responsible for their own victimization. Likewise mentally sick people are perceived by many to be responsible for their illness, even though many mentally ill categories can be attributed to problems in brain function or the environment over which the patients have no control (Hinshaw & Cicchetti, 2000). Likewise many wealthy people defend the status quo by justifying existing differences in wealth as deserved by family inheritance, or as determined by the naturally determined evolution of talent (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004). Society through fashion magazines, and the yellow press attribute social status to those who are rich, famous or infamous. The gossip magazines are endlessly obsessed about the lives of movie stars or other guru’s, describing their lives in lurid detail and in ways that are supposed to convince the reader that these personalities are to be admired. If a person is wealthy it is common to believe that he/she is hardworking and intelligent. Ordinary members of society are often influenced by status ideology that favors the rich and famous and in the process accepting personal wealth as natural outcome of a just world. Sadly, people who work for a living have least cause to accept status ideology since admiration of the rich and famous justifies exploitation (Glick & Fiske, 2001; Jost, Pelham, Carvallo, 2002). Meritocracy under capitalism is the modern form of aristocracy that assumes that people get what they deserve, when in fact a host of factors unrelated to individual merit (e.g. inheritance) is responsible for good fortune.
From the perspective of restorative justice we can also set the situation right by punishing the offender. The Bible and other ancient texts offer examples of “an eye for an eye” retribution that still is with us today. Retribution justice calls for the same treatment to be applied to the offender as that suffered by the victim. So the arrogant rich should have the opportunity to live like the poor just to make life fair! Punishment is also used to deter future crimes. Isolating the offender in prison, or to effect the rehabilitation of criminals, serve the goal of protecting society. In society there is much debate today about whether criminal behavior should be punished in the search for retribution justice, or if the criminal should be rehabilitated to prevent offenses in the future (Carlsmith, Darley, Robinson, 2002). When people feel the emotions of fear or anger from the criminal behavior of others they are more likely to favor retribution. In retribution the responsibility for the criminal act is attributed to the offender. However, when the attribution is situational, people are more likely to call for punishment that leads to rehabilitation (Harmon-Jones, Sigelman, Bohlig, & Harmon-Jones, 2003).
4.2 Equity theory and distributive justice
Do we get what we deserve, is there a balance between what we give and get, in other words do our inputs match our outcomes? These questions are discussed by equity theory (Walster, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978). For many people justice require a balance between what we get and what we give. If one person is giving all to a relationship and our partner is not, the inequity will eventually produce feelings of unfairness, and efforts will be made to restore balance by demanding more from our partner or by ending the relationship. In loving relationships we expect to get as we give, in other words we expect distributive justice.
As mentioned above employees in capitalist economies have many reasons for feeling that distributive justice is violated. In 1998 the average salary of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was one thousand times higher than the average employee in the United States. The disparity is increasing with the result that in 1999 the 13,000 richest families in the U.S. exceeded the wealth of the 20 million poorest families (Krugman, 2002; Phillips, 2002). The disparity in wealth is increasing all over the developed and developing world, and is a cause of resentment, feelings of unfairness, and conflicts.
The unfairness in access to resources has many significant health and social consequences. Those in the lower end of the socioeconomic scale are exposed to more toxic hazards, do not get adequate health care, and have a poor start in life as manifested by low birth weight. Not surprisingly the poor are not only robbed of the quality of life, but also have shorter life spans (Adler, Boyce, Chesney, Cohen, Folkman, & Kahn, 1994; Yu & Williams, 1999). In a perceived scarce resource world it should not surprise us that people who are well of look after themselves, and their kinship relations. For people who are aware of distributive injustice the unfairness strikes deep, and fuels wars and regional conflicts. In Africa people are often robbed of the resources from the land on which they live as for example oil or diamonds are removed by foreign companies or central governments with little or no benefit to the local people who should by right own these resources.
4.3 Slave mentality and distributive justice
People often feel that their contributions are inadequately compensated. In laboratory studies, self-interests prevail. Generally people feel that their own behavior is governed by fairness, and participants in studies often feel they were fairer toward others when compared to the other participants. For example married partners in one study felt that they each contributed more than their fair share to the functioning of the household (Ross & Sicoly, 1979). Other studies have produced similar results. Other people are seen as unfair, whereas people see themselves as fair and balanced. The construal of what is fair seems to proceed from ego centered cognition and self-interests (Messick, Bloom, Boldizar, & Samuelson, 1985). However, these studies generally focus on middle class respondents who are not deprived in any absolute sense. In other words, the comparison process for fairness is between relative equals in resources, and not between different socioeconomic classes.
How do deprived people compare themselves when evaluating distributive justice? Some researchers have found that those who live in low socio-economic environments express similar life satisfaction as those who live in wealthy circumstances (Myers, 2000). Absolute wealth discrepancies do not appear a cause for life dissatisfaction. One reason is that people compare for fairness of outcomes within their own socioeconomic group. It is when people fall behind within their own group that distributive justice motivates behavior to restore justice. This fact also makes it easier to obfuscate the real injustice that occurs between socioeconomic classes.
Relative deprivation is the key to distributive injustice. How deprived a person feels when comparing himself to others from his neighborhood, in his profession, or socioeconomic class is the key to understanding the motivation of distributive injustice (Walker & Pettigrew, 1984). Individuals who display wealth conspicuously are not used for comparisons, as they are not seen as relevant to the outcomes of those who are struggling. For many people conspicuous display of wealth is justified since we live in a “just world”. God or other just causes must be responsible for these wealth discrepancies. Those who do not adapt this slave mentality often come from the more advantaged members of the deprived group. The relative better of members of deprived groups are the ones who come in contact with wealthier people and can engage in cross-class social comparison (Guerin & Epps, 1975). When social reality allows people to aspire to a better life, the more advantaged in society are used for comparison, and distributive justice takes on higher standards.
Distributive justice is based on self-interests. Within the relevant comparison group there is always a bias toward self-interest and self-presentation. We feel that we contribute more than others in the work place. Most of us feel also that we are pulling more than our fair share in family life, or among friends. In choosing a fair payout for our efforts we typically pay ourselves more than other participants (Messick & Sentis, 1979). So whether at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid or at the bottom distributive justice is not easily found and is constantly revised.
Equity justice requires that rewards correspond directly to the contributions made in a relationship. Equal pay for equal work has long been the demand of women in various countries of the world. There may be differences between contributions made so equity demands correspondence between the work performed and the compensation received. For example, if you are creating 75 percent of the inventions for the company then equity demands that you receive 75 percent of the profits.
The equity principle favors people who are already winners in society since it would allow them to retain more of their wealth. The flat tax proposal where everyone pays the same percentage is based on the equity principle. If the rich and poor both pay 10 percent of their income in tax obviously the rich will retain more of their wealth, since 10 percent will be a relatively small share for those who have plenty, but a real sacrifice for those already deprived. In fact from the perspective of self-interests rich people prefer equity, as do the more materialistic and conservative people (Cook & Hegtvedt, 1986; Rasinski, 1987).
Socialism noted the essential unfairness of the equity principle and promoted a new society based on equality. To give according to ability and to receive an equal share of the social resources is the basic theme of socialist thinking. Socialist ideology projected a future vision where selfishness would not be a motivator in a society of plenty. Socialism means that each person contributes what he can and receives from society what he needs. The present world is far from equal in the sharing of resources, a characteristic of exchanges more likely found in friendships. Among friends resources are often shared equally. If a partner finds gold in a mutually owned mine equality demands that the find is shared in equal parts. The United States and many other countries are further away from the principle of equality than in any previous period in history (Phillips, 2000).
In families the principle of need determines distribution of resources (Tyler & Smith, 1998). Children are of course still egoistic and would demand a disproportionate share as “fair”, but adults set the tone and make decisions based on what children need to develop and grow to their full potential. If a child is ill he is likely to receive a larger share of resources in defense of his life and health. Many developing societies promote having many children with equity in mind, so when children grow up they could give back and take care of their parents. In the parents’ relationship with their children need predominates, and there is always some inequality in need. The need imperative in families can also be thought of as an equality principle as parents seek to compensate for the misfortune and unequal environments of their children. If a child is ill he may receive a disproportionate share of the parents income, which is an attempt by parents to compensate for the unfairness of illness. In intimate relationships we often put our own welfare second to the beloved child or spouse. In more distant relations such as the workplace, we expect equity.
4.4 Fair and transparent procedure
The term “teacher’s pet” is used to describe children who are liked by their teachers and gain unfair advantage in grades and promotion not based on merit. Likewise in the workplace the boss may be favorably biased toward a fellow worker who is unfairly given larger pay raises and early promotions. If procedures for rewards or punishment are not transparent the distribution outcome will be perceived by many to be unfair and unacceptable. According to Tyler (1994) procedural justice is a function of the manifest neutrality of the judge. At sporting events we expect judges to be neutral and to have no ego invested in the outcome. That is why judges are often chosen from neutral countries at international sporting events.
The judging system must be seen as having integrity, so participants can trust the system. The election of president Bush in the first round in 2000 was determined by a handful of disputed votes in Florida, eventually settled by the supreme court in a split partisan vote that left the election illegal in the minds of many if not most Americans. Today the average American has little respect for the integrity of the legislative or executive branches of government.
Another component of procedural justice is the feeling of the participant that he has been treated with respect. Did Gore, the loser in the election, feel that those who decided the outcome treated him with respect? Actual criminals are more likely to accept the punishment received in the courtroom if they are treated with respect. For example, in sentencing serial killer Bundy to death – the death penalty is still carried out in many states in the USA – the judge said he had no personal animosity, and given different circumstances could have seen Bundy being an effective lawyer, and finally wished him “good luck”. It is of course a characteristic of psychopaths that they are often likeable, but the judge still manifested the respect that is essential in accepting judgments. In studies about promotions in the workplace, and criminals being judged by the justice system, the results showed that the actual workplace reward (promotions or pay increases), or prison sentence meted out did not correlate with the individuals’ sense of procedural justice. What was of greatest importance was whether the authority figure was seen as neutral, had integrity, and treated the individual with respect (Brockner & Weisenfeld, 1994). Admittedly that can cause a problem for justice since a slick judge who expresses a liking for the defendant or boss for a worker can get away with more injustice than the leader who is actually fair, but does not respect the individual.
4.5 Procedural justice and the law
The desire to obey the law is stronger when the procedure is seen as fair and just. If the procedures are considered fair people are also more likely to comply with the law (Tyler, 1990). It is not the fear of punishment that determines compliance, but the transparency and fairness of the procedures (Blader & Tyler, 2003; Wenzel, 2000). People place importance on procedural justice as can be observed in the study by Tyler (1990). Imagine you have been given a ticket for ignoring a traffic sign and go to court. You feel the fine is unfair since your view of the traffic sign was obscured. Two possibilities now occur. The first is a dismissal of the fine by the judge, who agrees with your objection. The second possibility is that the judge carefully listens to your complaint, examines all the pertinent facts, and then rules against you on account of the fact that the traffic sign although obscured was still visible and should have been obeyed. What outcome do you think people prefer? Hands down you would think dismissal of the fine would be most appealing? However, in this study participants preferred the second option because they felt that they had had their say in court, and had been treated with respect. The ideal society would require no coercion, as people would obey the law because it is fair and just and it is the right thing to do. Since we do not live in an ideal society, coercion must be part of the picture. Nevertheless the law should at least not make any mistakes when it comes to judgment of innocence or guilt. Perhaps the most revolting feelings of unfairness occur when an innocent man is convicted of a crime that he did not commit or when a law is enforced that did not arise from social consensus.
5. Finding the truth: Eyewitness testimony and jury group processes
Juries are selected to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused and have been part of, among others, the British and American justice systems for hundreds of years. The legal system places great value on eyewitness testimony. After all what is better evidence than someone present when the crime was committed? This would be true if eyewitnesses could accurately recall the events, and had no other motives for their testimony. Unfortunately, as we shall see, disinterested and accurate recall is infrequent, and justice often illusive.
5.1 Influence of eyewitness testimony
Law enforcement and jurors rely heavily on eyewitness testimony to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. The evidence shows that jurors tend to overestimate the accuracy of eyewitnesses. Social psychological research has demonstrated many sources of eyewitness error and subsequent miscarriage of justice (Ellsworth & Mauro, 1998; Wells & Olson, 2003). In one experiment the investigators asked participants to rate their confidence in eyewitnesses who had been videotaped identifying a confederate thief. The participants consistently overestimated the accuracy of the eyewitness testimonies even when conditions were too poor for identification (Lindsay, Wells, & Rumple, 1981; Lindsay, & Wells, 1985).
The confidence in eyewitness testimony is misplaced. The most frequent reason for miscarriage of justice is misleading eyewitness testimony (Brandon, & Davies, 1973; Wells, Wright, & Bradfield, 1999). Wells and Bradfield (1998) reviewed 40 cases in which DNA evidence was obtained after the conviction. The results indicated that the accused were innocent in 36 of the cases. In these miscarriages of justice an eyewitness had mistakenly identified the accused as responsible for the crime. From this set of cases five convicts were subsequently sentenced to death and placed on death row before they were later found innocent. The situation was so critical that eventually the Illinois governor pardoned all prisoners on death row in his state, since he was no longer confident in the evidence that placed them there. One may wonder how many innocent prisoners have been executed throughout history.
5.1.1 Memory and false identification
Memory plays a central role in identifying a criminal offender. An accurate memory of events depends on our ability to acquire, store, and retrieve the appropriate information. We now know that this is not a simple process but one fraught with many opportunities for error and hence injustice. Typically criminal acts occur unexpectedly, and research supports the contention that most people do not acquire reliable memories from sudden and unexpected events. The classical study by Munsterberg (1908) demonstrated the inability of most participants to accurately observe a staged event at a scientific meeting. A confederate acting in a clown costume suddenly appeared in the room followed by a man with a revolver. They created a commotion grappling with each other, falling to the ground, and firing one shot. The participants were later asked to write down exactly what had happened. The majority of those present omitted significant parts, half of them wrote mistakenly about the events, or made other errors. Even among a group of educated and intelligent scientists eyewitness observation was not reliable.
In another study (Tolestrup, Turtle, Yuille, 1994) the investigators examined police records of criminal acts to which an accused had confessed. They compared the physical descriptions of the eyewitnesses to the actual physical features of the criminal who had confessed. The victims of the crime remembered the suspect’s hair color 38 percent of the time, and only 48 percent of the bystanders remembered it correctly. Combining the bystander and victims identification the suspect was identified correctly 48 percent of the time. Not a statistic that should put confidence in the accuracy of crime related memory.
There are many factors that inhibit correct identification. In preventing proper identification the following factors play a role: the speed with which the event often occurs, the fright created in the victim that motivates a narrowing of focus, and poor viewing conditions when for example crimes occur at night time, all obfuscate accurate memory. Furthermore, if the criminal is carrying a weapon the victim is focusing on that and not on his facial features as is demonstrated in various studies (Loftus, Loftus, & Messo, 1987; Shaw & Skolnick, 1999). There are many stereotypes in society related to criminal behavior, and people’s expectations may also create false identification. Research shows that observers able to better identify individual characteristics within their own race, but employ stereotypes in identifying individuals of other races (Levin, 2000; Meisnner & Brigham, 2001b). We pay more attention to those with whom we interact with on a daily basis, and are therefore more likely to observe individual features in same race persons. This stereotypic effect can also be demonstrated for age, as college students and middle age respondents are better able to distinguish faces within their own age range. So we see there are memory problems right at the beginning of acquisition.
If there is a time interval between the event and identification the memory of the event must be stored in some form. This creates additional problems. Most people do not possess photographic memories, and memories fade or are otherwise altered over time. What happens in the interval between the event and the testimony matters greatly. Research on reconstructive memory shows that subsequent information may distort and change the memory (Loftus & Hoffman, 1989; McDonald & Hirt, 1997; Schacter, 1996). In a classic study (Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978) the investigators showed 30 slides depicting an automobile accident. One slide varied in the two conditions. Some participants saw the car in front of a stop sign whereas others respondents saw the same vehicle stopped at a yield sign. After observing the slides of the accident the participants were asked a series of questions. The significant question was about their observation of the traffic sign. In one condition the participants were asked if they had observed another car pass while the car was in front of the stop sign. In the second version the participants were asked if the other car passed while the subject car had stopped at the yield sign. For half of the sample the sign was correctly identified, the other half was provided with incorrect information. Subsequently all the participants were shown two pictures, one with the stop sign the other with the yield sign and were asked which picture they had originally viewed among the thirty slides. Remember for half of the subjects the sign was misidentified. For those who were given correct information 25 percent still misidentified the slide. However, for participants given the misleading question 59 percent misidentified. This study showed that even subtle information can alter the memory of what had recently occurred.
In a court of law prosecutors can ask misleading questions altering what is stored in memory. Misleading questions create a problem in source monitoring; i.e. the misleading inquiry may intervene with the memories (Mitchell, Johnson, Mather, 2003). People get mixed up as to what they saw or heard. They have seen yield and stop signs before, and mistakenly attribute these previous memories to what they observed in the experiment. Eyewitnesses in criminal court may have observed some event and truthfully report what they have seen, while the source of the memory is in fact not the criminal happening. Competing memories are stored, and some may be tagged to the wrong event, yet the witness can most sincerely believe he/she is telling the truth.
The most common cause of judicial error and wrongful convictions is derived from misidentification during lineups of the suspect. The victim or observer is required to identify the criminal from a lineup of similar looking individuals. Often people choose not the actual offender, but someone who looks similar, and we have already seen that identifying individual features is difficult across races since members of another race look similar to the observer (Ellsworth & Mauro, 1998; Wells, Small, Penrod, Malpass, Fulero, & Brimacombe, 1998). There are of course practical steps to minimize misidentification. The witness should be told that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup, and the person presenting the lineup should not know the identity of the suspect to avoid giving subtle, but powerful identifying hints to the witness. The participants in the lineup should look similar to the suspect to minimize identification based on similarity. When photographs are used they should be presented sequentially to avoid the comparison process where the witness again uses similarity to falsely identity. Finally, the more information presented to the eyewitness the more accurate the identification, so the witness should be presented with both photographs and voice recordings of the suspect (Steblay, Dysart, Fulero, & Lindsay, 2001; Melara, De Witt-Rickards, & O’Brien, 1989). Unfortunately, the media often confound memory further by introducing new material that is now assumed by the eyewitness to be part of the original memory leading to identification.
5.1.2 DNA and eyewitness accuracy
The new science of DNA identification has assisted law enforcement in overcoming misidentifications. Eyewitnesses of murder and rape have often wrongly identified suspects resulting in unjust penalties including lifelong imprisonment and death. Ancient societies knew about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, and some countries therefore required more than one witness for conviction. The seductive effect of eyewitness testimony for both judge and jury lies in the utterly sincere testimony of the eyewitness who truly believes they are identifying the right person, when in fact they are not. In many cases eyewitnesses are convinced of the correctness of their identification, and refuse to believe otherwise even when presented with scientific evidence to the contrary (Thompson, 2000). Fortunately, the science of DNA identification has now progressed to a point where if the perpetrator leaves any DNA sample the identification can be accurately decided. However, in many criminal cases the suspect leaves no scientific evidence and the courts still rely on eyewitness testimony for most convictions.
It is wise to remember that the certainty by which the eyewitness identifies the suspect is not a good indicator of reliability (Lindsay, Read, & Sharma, 1998; Wells, Olson, & Charman, 2002). There is only a weak relationship between certainty and accuracy in identification. What happens between identification and court testimony may influence the confidence of the witness. If the witness learns that others have identified the suspect confidence increases (Penrod & Cutler, 1999).
Intuition seems to be the best guide to accurate and honest identification. It is when the observer works on his memory that perception is confounded. The more thinking and comparison activities carried out by the witness, the less likely the testimony will prove accurate. Accurate eyewitnesses identify spontaneously, often when the picture of the perpetrator is suddenly visualized, and do not know how they recognized the defendant (Dunning & Stern, 1994). There is also some research that indicates that when we actually try to put the offenders’ image into words that this verbalization process interferes with accuracy (Meissner & Brigham, 2001; Schooler & Engstler-Schooler, 1990). The process of putting an image into words is difficult, and can interfere with and change the memory. Since criminals do usually not stand still for photographs police often have had to rely on sketches of the suspect based on eyewitness descriptions. This identification process is less than accurate given the evidence from these studies.
Some eyewitnesses have motives to wrongly identify a suspect. Perhaps it is a case of revenge for some previous slight or injury, or the eyewitness is motivated by bigotry and hatred. There may be many motives in criminal cases and they are not easily discerned. Research also shows that it not easy to determine when a person is lying. The ability to tell when a person is telling the truth is only slightly better than chance guessing (DePaulo, Stone, & Lassiter, 1985). Recent research has not increased confidence in our ability to detect lying (Bond & Atoum, 2000; Ekman, 2002). The ability to discern the truth is related to job experience in detecting when people lie in a given situation. Thus CIA agents are somewhat better at detecting lying, as are clinical psychologists. Law enforcement officers, who were not identified in the study as outstanding interrogators, on the other hand only correctly detected lying at chance level (Ekman, O’Sullivan, & Frank, 1999).
The guilty have an interest in deception, in convincing others that they are telling the truth when denying knowledge of the crime. Lie detectors have been employed in law enforcement for a long time and used to assess whether a person of interest is telling the truth. The lie detectors are based on the supposedly involuntary responses of the sympathic nervous system in response to stress or anxiety fed by guilty knowledge. Also called the polygraph the lie detector measures changes in breathing and heart rates in response to carefully crafted questions. One type uses a control question where law enforcement officers ask questions relevant to the offense. How many times did you murder the victim? The assumptions are that a directly relevant question will create anxiety and changes in the physiological measures. The second approach employs multiple-choice questions and relies on the idea that only the guilty party knows about the event, and should therefore respond with anxiety to the relevant truthful answer. Did you commit the murder by hanging, gun, drowning, or strangulation? Presumably the murderer would know which way he dispatched his victim and would therefore show greater reactions to the truthful response.
Polygraphs have been found wanting and are of limited utility. If they were accurate tools for detecting deceit, independent analysts looking at the same case should come to the same conclusion about the guilt or innocence of the accused. However, the administrators of lie detection machines often disagree among themselves in interpreting the results (Ellsworth & Mauro, 1998). Under the best conditions the polygraph will predict somewhat better than chance, but it is not perfect (Ben-Shakkar & Elaad, 2003). Ekman (2002) noted that the polygraph misidentifies some 10 to 15 percent of those who lie as truth tellers, and a like number of truth tellers are misidentified a liars. 20 to 30 percent misidentification is too high a number to decide capital or any criminal cases. In less serious cases misidentifying a person as a liar has also repercussions. Some companies now hire based on polygraph results, and we must recognize that those companies treat some 20 to 30 percent of applicants unjustly.
There is no simple measure that can reveal with a high degree of certainty whether a person is responding truthfully or not (Kleiner, 2002). Even though many investigators believed that the reliability of polygraphs could be improved via hypnosis the results do not lend support to this thinking. Rather, hypnosis increases the chance that people come to falsely believe they made observations when in fact they had no such experience. Although hypnosis may increase the confidence that people have in their memory, it is a confidence not justified by increased accuracy. Focusing on the detail of the event by means of cognitive interviewing has in some research resulted in more accuracy in detection (Holliday, 2003). However, others have found that it also increases invention, especially in younger children (Fisher, Brennan, & McCauley, 2001). In sum, there is no way to ensure justice by means of eyewitness testimony; there are just too many ways that errors can occur.
5.1.3 The false memory syndrome
Imagine you are a totally devoted father who has treated his children with care and respect. One day you find yourself arrested for child sexual abuse. Your daughter has used the services of a psychologist and in the process of counseling and with the support of the psychologist she suddenly remembered childhood sexual abuse long repressed and forgotten. This is naturally a traumatic event for your daughter, and for you as well since the violation is reported to the police. What if teachers in a nursery school were all accused of sexual abuse in the form of a conspiracy that included satanic worship? Initially the children did not remember these events, but the psychologists were helpful, and over time the children recovered their memories. The above cases of accusation have actually happened despite the total innocence of the parents and teachers. These innocent parties were forced to go through the torture of false accusation from their own children and students (Wright, 1994). The accuracy of recovered memories remains a divisive concept in psychology (McNally, 2003; Schooler & Eich, 2000).
The zeitgeist in psychology was influenced by sexual abuse in the 1980s, and some researchers claimed that it was common for women who were sexually abused as children to repress this anxiety producing memory, only to recover it at a safer and more remote time (Bass & Davis, 1994; Alpert, Brown, & Cutois, 1998). However, much research has now cast doubt on the accuracy of these claims (Loftus, 2003; Ornstein, Ceci, & Loftus, 1998; Schacter, 1996; Schooler, 1999). It should surprise no one who understands how human memory works that people can recall an event that never happened. If powerful authorities suggest in subtle or direct ways that something happened the victim might come to believe the event even though it never happened. Today this is called the false memory syndrome, and the real victims are the innocently accused parents and teachers (Kihlstrom, 1996; Loftus, 1993; Schooler & Eich, 2000). These false accusation cases from real life have been supported by the results of numerous laboratory studies that demonstrate that memories may be false, that sincere individuals may be manipulated into believing in their own victimization. There may be memories that have been repressed in the past and suddenly recovered, but these are rare, and cannot be the sole basis for judicial intervention.
5.2 Arriving at the truth: The jury process
The jury system where one is judged by a group of fellow citizens has a long history in English and American jurisprudence. Typically juries consist of a group of six to twelve citizens. They meet after hearing the evidence to render a judgment favoring either the defense or the prosecution. Since the jury is a group of people all the research that we have on group processes and social interaction is relevant to jury decisions. Juries consist of average human beings who are subject to the same cognitive limitations and prejudices found in the rest of society. Therefore arriving at the truth and rendering a just decision is a precarious process.
Can judges who are trained in law, and have experience in legal trials do a better job in deciding what is right? The judge is also a product of society and limited by his social cognition, his stereotypes, and motivations. Any legal system that wants justice must have checks and balances to overcome biased judgments by jury or judge. It is however, disquieting to know that judges disagree with juries 25 percent of the time (Kalven & Zeisel, 1966). So those who hear the same evidence can come to very different opinions of what is right and fair (Borgida & Fiske, 2008).
5.2.1 Pretrial publicity
Many legal cases are tried in the court of public opinion long before the actual trial. The media often report on the crimes committed and the defendants arrested prior to jury selection. Due to these press reports many potential jurors have made up their minds about the innocence or guilt of the defendants long before they hear any testimony at trial. Typically the information in the media about the defendants comes from law enforcement, not precisely unbiased sources. Research shows that the more people hear about the case from the media the more they tend to be biased against the defendant (Fulero, 2002; Kerr, 1995). Emotional publicity providing lurid details of criminal cases increases the likelihood the jurors will render guilty verdicts, as it arouses people’s emotions.
Some white color crimes in the United States have adversely affected tens of thousands of retirees, or those who were going to retire, and left the companies bankrupt. Most people can identify with the plight of the victims, as threats to economic security are very emotional in nature. Although jurors are warned not to be influenced by pretrial publicity it is doubtful that these admonitions can overcome negative pretrial information (Kramer, Kerr, & Carroll, 1990; Ogloff & Vidmar, 1994). We know from research that when jurors are told to disregard what they have heard before the trial such admonitions may in fact increase the possibility that the biased information will be used in the jury room (Fein, McCloskey, & Tomlinson, 1997). Information is often registered in the unconscious portions of the mind, but may nevertheless affect outcomes significantly. Even linking a person superficially to a criminal act in the media produces biased perceptions of that individual. We call this guilt by association, and even denial of such association may by itself produce negative biases (Wegner, Wenzlaff, Kerker, & Beattie, 1981). The best solution for rendering a fair judgment is to find jurors who have heard nothing about the case, but in today’s world of television, the Internet, and other media, that may prove impossible.
5.2.2 Group processes and jury deliberations
Jurors utilize the same cognitive processes as people making other types of decisions. They try to decide which account makes most sense, the defendant’s or the prosecutor’s case (Hastie & Pennington, 2000). Lawyers have two approaches in presenting their cases. They can present the case as a story where the evidence is presented in the sequence in which the criminal events occurred, trying to provide the jurors with the whole picture from the prosecutor’s or defendant’s perspective. In, the second approach, lawyers can present the case in witness order, using the sequence of witnesses in a way that is most convincing. Here we may remember the so-called primacy and recency effects. Is the information presented first most persuasive, or is it the information presented last (see chapter 8)?
These two strategies have been experimentally employed in simulated jury trials. The results strongly support the effectiveness of the story approach in persuading jurors of the case (Pennington & Hastie, 1988). When the prosecution used the story order of presentation and the defense employed the witness order 78 percent of the experimental jurors voted to convict the defendant. On the other hand if the prosecutor used the witness order and the defense the story approach, only 31 percent voted to convict. So the manner in which the prosecution and defense present their information makes a difference in whether a person is judged guilty or not. Does that strike you as being in conformity with justice morality? It would seem that the manner of presentation determines the verdict regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
The most significant factor in predicting whether a jury will convict is the majority opinion on the initial vote in deliberation. This can easily be understood from studies on conformity. Most people in the minority do not have the fortitude to stand against a majority, and majority opinion usually carries the day as it convinces or wears down the minority with arguments. In a study on actual criminal trials the investigators found that in 97 percent of the cases the final outcome was identical to the initial majority opinion. Still other research suggests that having an initial minority sometimes convinces the majority to change their minds in the direction of the minority at least toward acceptance of a lower criminal charge. When a person is accused of first-degree murder but the minority believes it is a case of manslaughter juries will often find room for compromise. The first-degree murder charge may be downgraded by negotiation to guilty of second-degree murder, a charge with less severe penalties (Pennington & Hastie, 1990). The ability of minorities to sway the majority is why a jury of 12 persons is better than six, since the larger jury is more likely to have minority opinion present (Horowitz & Bordens, 2002).
6. Cooperation morality and reconciliation
Cooperation is a fundamental morality in all communities. From an evolutionary perspective people developed cooperative modes of interaction because these contributed to survival. People who learned to cooperate together also went hunting together, and shared harvests when times were tough. Treating others with compassion is part of our evolutionary heritage, and is also shared with various other species, particularly among the primates (de Wall, 1996). Chimpanzees in leadership roles share food with their group members, and seek to reduce conflict among lower status individuals. In scarce resource communities conflict is a constant factor of life. Primates have learned to avoid conflict, and to defuse aggression when it does occur. Grooming behavior and offering food among primates are all attempts to bring about more cooperation and avoid conflict (Keltner & Potegal, 1997).
The most basic norm of moral reasoning in humans is the reciprocity norm. Reciprocity supports both cooperative and competitive behavior. When you offer help to someone you expect the favor to be returned (Miller & Bersoff, 1994). Reciprocity is a basic moral obligation found in all societies, although it may have higher priority in interdependent cultures (Miller & Bersoff, 1994). Members of interdependent cultures are more likely to see reciprocity as a moral obligation, whereas those living in more independent cultures think of reciprocity as a choice.
6.1 Intergroup cooperation and contact
In chapter 9 we discussed from research on prejudice that showed that the mere contact between races and ethnic groups does not lead to improved cooperation. In the United States and in several European countries people of different ethnic background still live segregated lives often with hostility brewing under the surface of daily co-existence (Fasenfest, Booza, & Metzger, 2004). People with high levels prejudice avoid contact with target groups as it may confront their cherished prejudicial opinions (Herek & Capitanio, 1996). Interracial cooperation improved however, when the races had to cooperate in the military service during the Second World War (Stouffer, Suchman, DeVinney, Star, & Williams, 1949). Pettigrew (1997) found that those with more egalitarian contact among minorities in Europe also had less prejudice. It could on the other hand, also be argued that southern whites who displayed prejudice during slave times had the most contact and at the same time the highest degree of bigotry. Why? It is obviously not contact alone that matters, but the nature of the contact.
The improved attitudes that developed between black and white soldiers in integrated units during the Second World War occurred because they came to see themselves as part of a larger group that was inclusive of all races facing a common enemy. In order to develop cooperative interdependence between members of varying groups they must share common goals (Gaertner, Mann, Murrell, & Dovido, 1989; Sherif et al, 1961). When people depend on each other to reach superordinate and overriding goals they develop mutual dependence and cooperative attitudes. As Allport (1954) argued members of competitive groups must interact on the basis of equal status. Aronson and Gonzales (1988) also advanced the importance of the equal status idea in their study on cooperation using the jigsaw method in the classroom. When each student had equal responsibility in learning the material and teaching it to other group members the result was more cooperation across a variety of ethnic groups, improved self-esteem, and better academic performance (Johnson & Johnson, 2000). It is the nature of the contact that improves cooperation. Working together allows members of competing groups to form a new group identity derived from the common superordinate goal (Dovido, Gaertner, & Valilidzic, 1998; Gaertner et al, 1989).
The United Nations was founded with the hope that it would be all-inclusive and would lead to cooperation and lasting peace. It is for sure that the world would not have been a better place without the United Nations. However, the founding hopes have not been attained, and much work remains. The modern world is a constant struggle between the obvious importance of cooperation in building nations, and the desire of sub national groups for recognition and a larger share of the pie. Identification with sub national groups emerges from the belief that it is doing poorly in the sharing of resources compared to the majority (Huo, Smith, Tyler, & Lind, 1996). Migration increases tensions in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and the United States. New arenas for competition have opened up as some minorities climb their way up the economic ladder. Although societies try in various ways to accommodate new groups, whether legal or illegal immigrants, there is little doubt that these arrivals test the old structures of cooperation and contribute to intergroup antagonism. How to develop more inclusive categories in the future so these become paramount in social interaction is the key challenge in developing more cooperative societies.
6.2 Perceived injustice and cooperation
Conflict occurs when one or more of the basic norms of equity, equality or needs are violated. We have seen that those who benefit from exploitation find ways of justifying inequity and inequality. People who find themselves as disenfranchised can respond with slave mentality and accept the unfair conditions of life. They can also demand compensation, or refuse to cooperate. We can observe these varying responses in modern revolutionary struggles, in the fight for racial equality and in women’s struggles to be treated fairly (Lowe & Wittig, 1989).
6.3 The pressing superordinate goals requiring our cooperation
We live in complex and difficult times. Each day we are reminded of what divides us rather than of the goals we have in common. Yet there are many superordinate goals that must be met for the human race to survive. These goals include overcoming ethnic conflict, pollution, the AIDS epidemic, the effects of globalization, the warming of the planet, and the continued threat of annihilation by nuclear weapons. These are the superordinate goals of humankind that can only be solved if we cooperate and work together for increasing harmony in the world (see also Galtung, 2005). Research has shown that when people become aware of a common threat they are more likely to cooperate and develop a more cohesive outlook. Those who have experienced a common enemy, and faced death together have been known to develop very close ties. We see that among the Veterans of the War on Vietnam today in the United States (Elder & Clipp, 1988), and likewise among the veterans of the colonial war fought by the Netherlands against the Indonesians fighting for their independence halfway through the twentieth century. What can be more threatening than the aforementioned issues that endanger not only individual survival, but also the well being of society and the world.
The effect of external threats on group cohesiveness is well understood by the leaders of nations. The effort to demonize the enemy, to increase his potential threat in the mind of the population, is used in order to motivate national morale (Larsen, 1976). Hitler used the technique in unleashing war in Europe, and other leaders are using similar threats and fears today. Nevertheless we must come to a consciousness that no nation can face the aforementioned real threats alone, that it is not possible to find security by increasing armaments, and that at the end of the day cooperative morality must find its place as the most effective means of dealing with external threat.
6.4 Trust and misperceptions
The world is still dominated by the belief that coercion is the only way to solve conflict. Yet all past wars refute this contention. Hitler thought that bombing Great Britain would bring the people to their collective knees, but it made the British even more determined to resist the enemy. The French and Americans thought coercion would lead to lasting peace in Vietnam to which end they bombed, tortured, and repressed the country without a peaceful outcome. History has proved the failure of these coercive methods. It is bewildering why national leaders still hang on to the idea that they can get their way by employing force and repression.
The key factor missing in moving the world toward more cooperation is the lack of trust in the opposing side. Leaders do not believe in the good intentions of the other side. At times those feelings are justified, but then again sometimes they are not and how can we tell the difference? Would a major conflict like the Cold war have short-circuited if trust had been employed in the early days of the Soviet Republic? Instead the hostile military intervention of the Western powers at the onset of the Soviet Union laid the basis for the mistrust that lasted for generations. What would have happened to the internal terror in the Soviet Union if Stalin had not have had the external threat of the West to justify his actions? We do not know, but the lack of trust was certainly used by both sides to keep the world on the brink of destruction.
The lack of trust was at least partly based on misperceptions. Of course the world is complex, and there are always many competing motives to take into account. However, keeping in mind the overriding superordinate goals the incompatibility between social systems should not have been allowed to interrupt cooperation during the Cold war, nor should it delay action today. As we have seen in an earlier chapter stereotyping is a response to reduce complexity. This form of absolute thinking leads to moral simplifications expressed in terms such as “evil empire”, and other negative categorizations. National leaders have in the past promoted these stereotypic responses and this has resulted in misperceptions. The behavior that emerges out of these misperceptions plays out as self-fulfilling prophecies as each side behaves appropriate to the stereotype. It is worth keeping in mind that when two sides have widely varying views of each other and themselves, they cannot both be right and that solutions to conflict require complex thinking (Deutsch, 1986). The end of the cold war was possible when the Soviet Union developed leadership capable of more complex evaluations, and accepted the superordinate goal of avoiding nuclear catastrophe (Tetlock, 1988). Unfortunately the complex thinking in the Soviet Union did not prevent internal social collapse and the rise of new hatreds.
6.5. Cooperation: The overriding morality of an interdependent world
We cannot but accept that we are becoming increasingly interdependent. Those promoting (economic) globalization base their thinking on an increasingly interdependent world. They pay however little attention to the increasing disparity in income, or other costs of globalization including pollution and the warming of the planet. Large industries have been destroyed in developed nations as capital is moved to more profitable parts of the globe. The shortsightedness of this development will come on display in future conflicts between those who have and those who have not. People who lose out in this new world of competition experience injustice, and this inequity contributes to disharmony and despair. It is also not just about money anymore, globalization and changing climate threaten basic needs such as access to water. And while many parts of the world go hungry we turn agricultural products into ethanol!
Where this process will end is not clear. Ordinary people often understand and experience the threats earlier than leaders can accept or find solutions. Once certain benchmarks in the process of global warming have been passed make restoring the damage extremely difficult. Cooperation on this and other superordinate goals is imperative for our future.
This final chapter of the book addresses issues of morality. Morality refers to principles that guide human behavior and our lives. When applying the measuring stick of morality we ask questions about the ideal, how it would be to live in a more perfect world. Typically moral principles are inclusive and apply to all members of a society or culture. There is some evidence for the universality of some moral principles including the idea that we should not harm others, and that basic human rights possess sanctity. Cultures, however, vary in whether the principle is defined as a moral obligation or a social convention. Some behaviors defined as social convention in one society are considered moral obligations in others. Socio-political concepts of freedom and individual rights are common to many societies. Some cultures also emphasize personal purity as a moral obligation.
There are three types of ethics governing moral behavior. These include autonomy that is expressed in the rights of the individual. The second ethic refers to community defining status and social hierarchy. A third ethic is divinity that expresses the obligations of personal purity. Some moral judgments are automatic and intuitive and more or less reflexive in response. Other judgments require complex cognition for instance in the abortion debate.
Our competitive society confronts us with moral issues and questions. Competition for scarce resources contributes to conflict as we saw in the study on the price of cotton and lynching in southern United States. Competition also contributes to ingroup cohesiveness while increasing conflict and scapegoating toward outgroups. The ethnic conflicts that occurred in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist states are manifestations of competition, and feelings of injustice by sub national groups. Countries that are highly peaceful usually welcome diversity and show tolerance toward outgroups. A major source of conflict derives from the contradiction between selfish individual advantage and the common interest. Many of the important crises in the world like global warming are a consequence of small individual acts of selfishness that conflict with the common good.
Social psychology has developed a number of laboratory games to study competition and cooperation in the laboratory. The prisoner’s dilemma game is a laboratory analogy of competitive behavior. The basic idea is whether the participant either cooperates or competes with another participant. Over the long run competition produces the lowest payoff, but players still persist in competition. The arms race is similar since it is all about defining the intent of the opponent. The competitive ideology in society primes people to act competitively in social interaction. Simply labeling a laboratory game as “Wall Street” is sufficient to elicit competitive responses. In the “Nuts” game the investigators showed that groups of people act in the same selfish way. The tit for tat game where each play receives the matching response is easy to read and players soon understand that cooperation is the best payoff in the long run.
Ideological competition is dominated by the fundamental attribution error. The world is torn apart in ideological conflict where opponents are labeled in absolute terms. The fundamental attribution error overlooks the common interests of all parties and exaggerates differences. When we assume the worst of others we feed competition and the desire to win. Competition and the fundamental attribution error are ingrained constructs, and the damage caused comes about in small incremental steps. We cannot rely on free will to solve these problems but require regulations and laws to counteract. The norms of social responsibility should be made more salient within society and between nations for the sake of the health of the Earth. Research supports the importance of complexity of thinking and the ability to empathize with opponents in order to find the common ground.
Competition is a moral issue because it has negative social consequences including increased stress and poor health. In individualistic competitive societies many people are so stressed that they seek to escape by overeating, by the use of tobacco, and the abuse of drugs. Stress produces a mode of constant physiological armament that is related to many diseases. As a concept stress is psychological because we observe individual differences to stress. Still when stress related responses reach epidemic proportion we must acknowledge that there is something fundamentally wrong in society.
Responses to stress occur within the context of relationships and culture. In independent societies appeals for healthy behavior is most efficacious when directed toward the individual and his social responsibility. In interdependent cultures social networks of support are crucial in changing unhealthy behaviors. Research has established a strong link between lifestyles and health. Cancer rates would be significantly reduced if people would stop smoking. Overeating and drunk driving are also lifestyle choices. Attitude toward health is a significant factor in maintaining health and avoiding unhealthy lifestyles. Values including an interest in health, personal vulnerability, and self-efficacy are central to health choices. Impulsiveness also plays a role in health threatening behaviors including unprotected sex, and drug or alcohol abuse. Poverty produces learned helplessness and prevents people from having the necessary resources critical to good health. Cultures differ in the amount of social support rendered to those facing stress and illness. Competitive societies produce income disparity where victims feel the effects of accumulated injustice with subsequent health consequences. The beneficial effects of social support can be demonstrated in the speed of recovery by patients, and overall effectiveness in functioning.
Stress is always with us in some form, and societies have developed different ways to cope. Sometimes the aim is to reduce physiological arousal that accompanies stress through relaxation therapies including meditation and massage. Individual coping styles vary from hostility, to avoidance, to confronting stress directly. Personality plays a role as some people are optimistic, possess hardiness, and self-efficacy, all traits related to health functioning. One could say that the morality of a competitive society is measured in ill health.
Injustice produces poor health for the many as seen in lower birth weight at the start of existence, and shorter life spans. Justice morality refers to all the issues derived from unfairness in society, and people’s responses to injustice and the ideology of a just world. When people become aware of injustice they take measures to restore the imbalance. Frequently that happens by blaming the victim of injustice for his or her own misfortune. Those who possess wealth often justify disparities in resources by referring to rights of inheritance or natural talent, and by status ideology that justifies exploitation. Equity theory and distributive justice address issues of disparity in wealth and resources that seem to be increasing all over the world. People are ego-centered and believe they contribute more than their fair share to any interaction, so what is considered fair is determined by their self-interests. When comparing for status people compare within their own social group, overlooking the larger injustice of disparities between social classes.
Three types of distributive ideologies describe distributive justice. Equity demands that rewards correspond directly to contributions made. This ideology favors the winners in society, the materialistic and the wealthy, who retain more of their resources given equity in distribution. Equality is the ideological underpinnings of socialism that requires that all receive an equal share of the resources. The world is far from fulfilling any approximation of equality, and it is increasingly unequal within and between societies. Need is distribution justice practiced in many families. The need justifies unequal distribution, or may be the family’s way of approximating equality given unequal health and individual misfortune of their children.
Since we live in an imperfect world, law must decide disputes of distributory rewards. Authority decisions must be perceived as transparent when distributing punishments and rewards or they will be seen as unfair. Procedural justice is a function of the neutrality of the decision maker. For an authority to be seen as legitimate it must be perceived to have integrity, and treat any offender of the law with respect. Since we do not live in ideal societies coercion is still a part in all forms of justice. However, we should at least make certain that the legal procedures do not judge the innocent guilty.
In some Western legal systems eyewitness testimonies and jury processes are central to the search for the truth in legal cases. The legal system places great value on eyewitness testimonies, a confidence that is misplaced. Juries tend to overestimate the accuracy of eyewitness to crimes, and misleading testimony is the most frequent cause for miscarriage of justice.
Social perception and memory play a role in identification of the offender. Accurate memory in turn depends on our ability to acquire, store, and retrieve material relevant to a case. Unfortunately, evidence shows many possibilities for error and misjudgment. Crime related events often occur suddenly, and under poor visual conditions, when victims and bystanders are emotionally upset, not ideal conditions for accurate identification. Also stereotypic effects involving minorities obscure identification in some cases. Memory is not photographic, but an active process. So what happens between the event and the time of recall may influence what is remembered. Misleading questions by police and lawyers can lead to problems of source identification of the memory, so what occurred elsewhere becomes part of a different memory. Misidentification occurs frequently during lineups because the eyewitness looks for similarity in features to the offender rather than identifying the actual offender.
Intuition seems the most reliable indicator for correct identification like when the face of the offender suddenly appears in the mind. Thinking about the face or other comparison processes may confound memory. Furthermore, some eyewitnesses have motives to lie and wrongly identify. Unfortunately it is not easy to tell when a person is telling the truth. Lie detectors and hypnosis are imperfect instruments in the search for the truth. In the false memory syndrome we have the tragic instance of innocent people being accused of events that never happened. Some people have for example remembered child sexual abuse with the help of a therapist, but research has strongly debunked the reliability of such memories. DNA has now provided a more solid scientific basis for offender identification, unfortunately DNA material is not always present at crime scenes and identification still depends on unreliable eyewitness testimony.
The jury is the arbiter of the truth in legal cases. It is important to remember that juries are composed of average human beings with the same cognitive limitations and prejudices as other members of society. Pretrial testimony may prejudice the outcome against the defendant. The prosecution and the defense can either use the story approach or the witness sequence approach in presenting their cases to the jury. The story approach is stronger in persuasion and therefore injustice may be created by the manner in which testimony is presented. The most important factor in jury decisions is the majority opinion at the beginning of deliberation. At times the minority may have an effect on the level of guilt decided upon thus lowering the penalty for the accused.
The world needs more cooperation morality and reconciliation. From an evolutionary perspective people learned early in human history to cooperate because it contributed to survival. The most basic norm of moral reasoning is the reciprocity norm as described in the Golden Rule. Intergroup cooperation is partly a consequence of the type of contact between groups. The contact between slaves and master did not improve attitudes as the contact was based on inequality and exploitation. The literature points to the importance of equal status and common goals in contact situations that lead to more cooperative attitudes. The nature of the contact is critical as is the development of more inclusive group categories.
Conflict occurs when the basic norms of equity, equality, or needs are violated. Cooperative ideology therefore depends on our ability to develop fair access to resources, and to remove the varying forms of injustice from our social life. The world today has pressing superordinate goals the solution to which will determine the survival of the human race. Research has shown that when people become aware of common threats they cooperate and develop more cohesive and inclusive perspectives. Misleaders have also used external threat to demonize opponents in order to build group morale and resolve. However, cooperative morality is the most effective means of removing the significant threats we face now and in the future. History shows plainly that coercion does not solve conflicts. Mistrust and misperception of the opponent feed conflict.
We are living in an increasingly interdependent world. That reality requires that we find global solutions to the major problems of our times. It is ironic that those who advocate globalization ignore the most obvious contribution to conflict, the increasing disparities in income and resources. Cooperation is imperative in order to find solutions to the problems defined by our common superordinate goals. Our future depends on our ability to use all our knowledge and resources in finding these solutions. Social psychology will provide important information in that quest.