The morality of organization versus organized members: Organizations are attributed more control and responsibility for negative outcomes than are equivalent members.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Seven experiments demonstrate that framing an organizational entity (the target) as an organization ("an organization comprised of its constituent members") versus its members ("constituent members comprising an organization") increases attribution of responsibility to the target following a negative outcome, despite identical information conveyed. Specifically, the target in the organization (vs. members) frame was perceived to have more control over a negative outcome, which led to an increased attribution of responsibility (Studies 1-3). This effect surfaced for both for-profits and nonprofits (Study 5). However, when the target in the members frame had explicit control over the outcome (Study 3), or when participants held strong beliefs in individual free will (Study 4), the effect of frame on responsibility attenuated. To the extent that framing increased perceptions of control, punishment for the target also increased (Studies 6a and 6b). By demonstrating how a subtle shift in framing can impact people's perceptions and judgments of organizations, we reveal important knowledge about how people understand organizations and the psychological nature of organizational and group perception. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tang, S; Koval, CZ; Larrick, RP; Harris, L

Published Date

  • October 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 119 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 901 - 919

PubMed ID

  • 32105101

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-1315

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-3514

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/pspi0000229


  • eng