Jessica A. Kennedy (Owen, Vanderbuilt), Maurice E. Schweitzer (Wharten, U. Penn.); Holding People Responsible for Ethical Violations: The Surprising Benefits of Accusing Others; draft; Destined for Some Social Science Journal; 2017-now; 65 pages.
tl;dr → “High-Horse” Sanctimony Works.
Individuals who accuse others of unethical behavior can derive significant benefits. Compared to individuals who do not make accusations, accusers engender greater trust and are perceived to have higher ethical standards. In Study 1, accusations increased trust in the accuser and lowered trust in the target. In Study 2, we find that accusations elevate trust in the accuser by boosting perceptions of the accuser’s ethical standards. In Study 3, we find that accusations boosted both attitudinal and behavioral trust in the accuser, decreased trust in the target, and promoted relationship conflict within the group. In Study 4, we examine the moderating role of moral hypocrisy. Compared to individuals who did not make an accusation, individuals who made an accusation were trusted more if they had acted ethically but not if they had acted unethically. Taken together, we find that accusations have significant interpersonal consequences. In addition to harming accused targets, accusations can substantially benefit accusers.