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The University of Southampton

Bribery, Blackmail, and the Double Standard for Leader Transgression

Georgina Randsley de Moura
School of Psychology, University of Kent at Canterbury, UK

What standards do people apply when judging transgressive group members and leaders? Participants evaluated either a leader or a regular member of either an ingroup or an outgroup who transgressed by engaging in either bribery (Experiment 1) or blackmail (Experiment 2). In both experiments transgressors were judged less punitively if they were ingroup leaders than ingroup members, outgroup members or outgroup leaders. The severity of the transgression and whether it served group interests did not alter this effect, which shows that people may apply a double standard to an ingroup leader’s transgressions. We discuss implications for the spread of corruption among leaders and followers.

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