Direct and indirect responsibility

Distributing blame

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*, Pamela M. Warton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper represents two studies exploring the distribution of blame in situations where one member of a family has asked a brother or sister to do a job normally done by the asker, and the sibling fails to do the job. Study 1 samples 14- and 18-year olds. Study 2 samples 19-22-year-olds. The results bring out (a) a preference for assigning blame to both parties rather than all to one or the other, (b) a bias towards assigning less blame to the asker than to the person who has agreed, (c) an effect from circumstances that reflect effort on the part of the asker (blame to the asker is reduced, for instance, if he or she has left a reminder), and (d) a difference between the allocations made when subjects are in the role of the person asking against the person who has accepted (least blame to the asker when subjects are in the role of acceptor). Age and gender differences were not significant in either study. The results are discussed in terms of the need for an understanding of the circumstances encouraging the acceptance of indirect or vicarious responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-184
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Moral Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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