spreading the blame

Researchers at UCLA say blame is contagious. Even when we just observe a public display of blame we are more likely to do the same. Volunteers were asked to read about California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blaming others for a problem while a different group read how the governor accepted personal responsibility for the crisis. Both groups then wrote about a failure in their own lives. Those who saw blame modeled for them were almost a third more likely to join the blame game and put the fault for their failure on someone else. However, the number of blamers dropped when volunteers first wrote down their core values.

The researchers theorized that a reminder of how to make wise choices made it less likely individuals feel the need to defend themselves by blaming others and more willing to take responsibility. A USC professor conducted similar experiences and came to the conclusion that publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral.

When leaders, parents, or even friends make a practice of blaming others for their failures, they are encouraging people in their circle of influence to do the same. People become less willing to take risks, they become less innovative and less creative and less likely to learn from their mistakes. Blame creates a culture of fear.

Stephen Goforth