During my little hiatus, a few dramas unfolded in the YA blogosphere, and the two I directly observed had one thing in common: someone well-known did something disappointing.
Now, if you've read this blog for a while, you know I'm not going to hop up on a soapbox and add my opinion about the scandals to the pile. I do that rarely here, simply because there are enough opinions out there, so why would anyone want to hear mine?
What I will do: dissect it a bit, from a psychological perspective. That's why you come here, right? Oh, that or you're a kind, patient person with a high tolerance for eccentricity, and maybe we're friends, or possibly you're my dad (hi, Dad. I love you).
Okay! Someone well-known does something disappointing. And gets caught--and called out publicly. (No, I'm not going to link, sorry.) When these events went down, I read post after post with interest, and noticed that the (hundreds of) reactions coalesced into a few different types:
1. People who had neutral or negative opinions of WELL-KNOWN PERSON (WKP), and openly and loudly (you know, with all-caps and hashtags, etc.) condemned WKP for committing the TRANSGRESSION.
2. People who had positive opinions of WKP, who might have otherwise been extremely offended by the TRANSGRESSION, but who were much more willing to forgive and forget the transgression because of who committed it.
If you're wondering, yes, there were plenty of in-between kinds of opinions, but much of what I saw landed in one of these two camps, and that's what I'm going to focus on today (or else this would be a *really* long post).
Anyway, what's going on here? Both camps were presented with the evidence. Not just he said-she said--there was data! Screen captures! Time stamps! And it was evidence of something that is accepted by everyone in this community as BAD. How could people differ so widely in their reactions to something objectively labeled as unethical?
Well. This happens all the time, doesn't it?
A few psychological concepts are in play here, and I'm only going to mention two of them:
See how that might have been at work here? *Some* of the reactions to what happened could have been due to people trying to resolve cognitive dissonance by de-emphasizing a previously strongly held belief because it was just too uncomfortable to hold onto both beliefs at once. (I find cognitive dissonance so fascinating that I'll be posting more on it next week.)
Person vs. Situation explanations--when we're trying to understand behavior, we make guesses about WHY someone does something. Even when we're not consciously aware of doing so. Sometimes, we attribute behavior to the person: He is lazy. He is dishonest. She is insincere. She only looks out for herself. Sometimes, we attribute behavior to the situation: It was a momentary lapse in judgment. It was an isolated incident. She was under a lot of pressure. He was exhausted from trying to do too many things at once.
Again--you can see how this might have come into play. People who did not know WKP very well--or who didn't like WKP very much--probably erred on the side of person-oriented explanations, attributing the transgression to something inherent, permanent, and likely to generalize across situations--and that would leave them wary of WKP and unlikely to forgive easily, because the transgression was the result of a character flaw. People who know WKP, or who have had positive experiences with WKP, or who have benefited from association with WKP, probably erred on the side of situation-oriented explanations, attributing the transgression to something external to the person, temporary, and unlikely to generalize to other situations--which makes it easier to forgive and forget, because anyone could find themselves in that situation, right?
There you have it--this is how people react so differently to the same TRANSGRESSION. And it happens to all of us, every single day. None of us is immune to the effects of cognitive dissonance or person vs. situation explanations. None of us is as objective and logical as we'd like to believe. So now it's your turn, assuming I haven't utterly bored or confused you: can you think of a situation where a WKP has committed a TRANSGRESSION, and people had vastly different responses to it? What was your response, and why?