Ran, Y.; Hou, Y.; Dong, Z.; Wang, Q. Moral Observer-Licensing in Cyberspace. Behav. Sci.2022, 12, 148.
Ran, Y.; Hou, Y.; Dong, Z.; Wang, Q. Moral Observer-Licensing in Cyberspace. Behav. Sci. 2022, 12, 148.
Moral observer-licensing happens when people condone others’ morally questionable conducts due to their history of moral behaviors. We investigated in four studies (N = 808) this phenomenon in the context of cyberspace and its contributing factors and boundary conditions. Study 1 determined what participants perceived as typically moral and immoral behaviors in cyberspace. Then in Study 2, participants condemned less a story character’s online immoral behavior when they were informed of the character’s prior online moral behavior than when they were not, which indicates moral observer-licensing in cyberspace. Study 3 confirmed the presence of moral observer-licensing in cyberspace and further demonstrated that a character’s prior moral or immoral behavior online respectively reduces or intensifies the negativity of the character’s subsequent immoral behavior. Finally, Study 4 showed that participants who identified with the victim in a hypothetical scenario showed less forgiveness and more condemnation of a character’s immoral behavior than those who identified with the perpetrator or the bystander. These findings are of theoretical and practical significance for our understanding of cyber ethics.
Moral observer-licensing; Immoral behavior; Role involvement; Moral Credits Model; Internet; Social media
BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, Applied Psychology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.