Is Blaming Others Contagious?


Observing someone blame another for their lack of success “increased the likelihood that people would make subsequent blame attributions for their own, unrelated failures,” according to a paper just published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Deflecting responsibility, in other words, is infectious — but there appears to be an effective inoculation.

“When people blame others for their mistakes, they learn less and perform worse,” note the paper’s co-authors, Nathanael Fast of the University of Southern California and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University. “The problem is magnified when blame becomes embedded in the shared culture of groups and organizations. Yet little is known about whether — and if so, how — the propensity to blame spreads from one person to another.”

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