chapter  4
10 Pages

The Scapegoating of Stigmatized Victims

Of the various social interaction situations depicted in the previous chapter in Table 3.1 , the first to be investigated was that in which a nonstigmatized actor is initially induced to harm a stigmatized other and then is provided an opportunity to denigrate him. That harm-doers will often denigrate their victims has been demonstrated in several experiments that did not employ a stigma variable (cf. review by Berscheid & Walster, 1969). Such denigration has been interpreted as a way of reducing the moral discomfort that results from hurting another (called "guilt" by Freedman, 1970; "distress over inequity" by Walster, Berscheid, & Walster, 1970; and "dissonance" by Davidson, 1964; Davis & Jones, 1960; Glass, 1964). The common assumption is that denigration functions to justify the harmful act by lowering the worth of the injured person and that the greater the discomfort of the harm-doer, the stronger the tendency to denigrate.