How do moral standards affect personal morality?

Moral disengagement and personality. Does the end justify the means?

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 theory
2.1 Moral disengagement
2.1.1 Mechanisms
2.1.2 The influence of personality
2.1.3 Media reception and evaluation
2.1.4 Moral disengagement in the context of this work
2.2 Character evaluation
2.3 Parasocial interaction and identification with serial people
2.4 The Big Five of Personality
2.5 Enjoyment

3 method
3.1 sample
3.2 series
3.3 Character selection
3.3.1 Jon Snow
3.3.2 Cersei Lannister
3.3.3 Jaime Lannister
3.4 questionnaire
3.4.1 Character
3.4.2 Moral Disengagement
3.4.3 Parasocial Interaction
3.4.4 Identification
3.4.5 Big five
3.4.6 Enj oyment

4 results
4.1 subjects
4.2 Examination of St.
4.2.1 Examination of the Hl a)
4.2.2 Examination of the Hl b)
4.2.3 Examination of the HI c)
4.3 Checking the H2
4.3.1 Calculation of the correlations
4.3.2 Factor analysis of the PSI score
4.4 Checking the H3
4.5 Checking the H4
4.5.1 Checking the H4 a)
4.5.2 Checking the H4 b)
4.5.3 Checking the H4 c)
4.6 Checking the H5
4.7 Exploratory approach

5 discussion
5.1 Summary of the study
5.2 Results for Hypothesis 1
5.3 Results for hypothesis 2
5.4 Results for Hypothesis 3
5.5 Results for Hypothesis 4
5.6 Results for hypothesis 5
5.7 Further results
5.8 Summary of Results
5.9 Limitations of the study
5.10 Outlook

6 Bibliography

7 List of Figures

8 List of tables

9 Appendix

1 Introduction

The HBO series "Game of Thrones", which has been broadcast and produced since 2011, based on the books "The Song of Ice and Fire" by George RR Martin, is one of the most successful series worldwide and ranks 4th in the series ranking of the Internet Movie Database IMDB ( ״ IMDB Rating “, OD). This series is particularly characterized by the fact that it does not allow any classic division of the characters in the sense of "good" and "bad". The majority of the characters perform a variety of immoral acts over the course of the series, whether out of revenge, love, or selfishness. But Game of Thrones “is not an isolated case. The popularity of so-called antiheroes or morally questionable protagonists is an increasingly common phenomenon in the film and television industry and has been investigated by researchers for some time. One answer to the question of why we are able to enjoy such stories, which are characterized by morally questionable characters and actions, is moral disengagement. The concept of moral detachment is based on the research of Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, and Pastorelli (1996), which describes mechanisms by which we can justify immoral acts. Moral Disengagement was expanded to include stories and series by Krakowiak and Tsay-Vogel (2011; 2013). Raney (2004) dealt with the question of why we morally detach ourselves from beloved characters and thus relates moral disengagement to media psychology. Moral disengagement is also examined with regard to the personality of individuals (Egan, Hughes & Palmer, 2015). However, there is still no research that relates the influence of personality to moral disengagement in serial people. The present work is dedicated to the investigation of personality traits and their influence on moral disengagement as well as the influence of parasocial interaction and identification with the series people and to what extent moral disengagement is influenced by general enjoyment and the evaluation of characters. The aim is to find further explanatory models for the central question of why series like ״ Game of Thrones “are so successful.

The following chapter deals in detail with the theoretical principles on which this work is based. First, the results of previous research are used to explain what exactly moral disengagement means and what this concept tries to explain with its mechanisms. This is followed by an explanation of further psychological constructs that are to be examined with regard to moral disengagement in this work, namely the (moral) evaluation of the characters by the recipients as well as the parasocial interaction and identification with the series characters, the Big Five and the Enjoyment. These theories are highlighted and the current state of research is presented. The assumptions and thus also the hypotheses of this work are derived from this. The design of the study is shown in the method part of the thesis. It explains how exactly the online questionnaire, which was selected as the study design, is structured and what is queried with it. The results are then calculated in detail. It is examined which hypotheses should be supported and which should be rejected. The detailed discussion of the results found follows in the discussion part of this thesis. On the basis of the present theory and previous research, the findings of the study are critically examined and an attempt is made to explain them. Possible optimizations of the study are also suggested and recommendations are given as to what future research in this area should take into account.

2 theory

In the following part, the theoretical background on which this work is based is described and the assumptions based on it are derived. Furthermore, the importance of these theories in relation to the present work is explained and the conclusions are explained. This is followed by the formulations of the hypotheses. First, the present work is dedicated to the core topic of moral disengagement, followed by other constructs such as the (moral) evaluation of the character of a series person, the parasocial interaction (PSI) and the identification with series people. This is followed by a presentation of the five main dimensions of personality, the Big Five. The chapter closes with the topic of media enjoyment.

2.1 Moral disengagement

Moral disengagement is a concept within the framework of social cognitive theory in which moral standards are extracted through a self-regulatory process (Bandura, 1999). Through moral agency, the ability to link moral knowledge and judgments (Bandura, 1999), we develop moral standards. Adhering to these standards gives individuals higher self-esteem and makes them proud. We are tempted to adapt our behavior to these standards, but this does not always succeed. The theory of moral disengagement seeks to explain why ethical individuals can behave immorally (Bandura et ah, 1996). We try to regulate our behavior and detach ourselves from these moral standards through moral disengagement. So a person can be empathetic and compassionate while performing immoral acts (Bandura, 1999). We divide our fellow human beings into categories. For example, family and friends are in the categories of people we don't want to hurt. We exclude other people from this inner circle, which means that it is easier for us to behave immorally towards them (Bandura et ak, 1996).

The same applies to moral judgments of acts of third parties, since moral disengagement not only paves the way for justifying one's own morally questionable actions, but also decouples that judgment of morally questionable actions from others. This can be done because, for example, we really like the person who is morally questionable, we understand the motivation behind it or we rate it positively (Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2013). Indeed, through moral disengagement, individuals are able to justify morally questionable actions in themselves or in others without feeling guilty (Janicke & Raney, 2015).

Bandura et al. (1996) identified eight mechanisms that can be used selectively in order to morally detach oneself and still be able to meet one's own moral standards. These mechanisms are used as a justification to minimize feelings of guilt and to avoid moral sanctions. These mechanisms are discussed in more detail in the following chapter.

2.1.1 Mechanisms

The eight by Bandura et al. (1996) elaborated mechanisms of moral disengagement are moral justification, euphemistic labeling, advantageous comparison, displacement of responsibility, diffusion of responsibility, distortion of consequences, attribution of blame and dehumanization.

Probably the most widely used of these mechanisms is moral justification, in which an immoral act is acquitted of sanctions for a higher, good cause. Examples of this would be lying to someone so as not to harm them or torturing people to get information that could protect many people. Euphemistic labeling is about using beautifying terms, for example the word "clean up" instead of "kill" or the word "labor camp" instead of "extermination camp". In the advantageous comparison mechanism, on the other hand, immoral or morally questionable acts are compared with other "worse" acts in order to put them into perspective: ״ It is not so bad to steal a little money, because others steal far more money. "Or ״ A one-off Cheating is not as bad as a long-running affair ”. A well-known mechanism is often related to wars in which soldiers were able to shift responsibility for their actions from themselves, since they were only following orders (displacement of responsibility), not to be confused with diffusion of responsibility, whereby an immoral act is negated because ״ others do it too ”, such as lying on a résumé or avoiding a traffic jam on the hard shoulder. There is also the mechanism of minimizing the consequences (distortion of consequences), such as, for example, that "you won't get caught if you cheat on an exam". There is also the option of

To blame the victim himself for “not deserving otherwise” (also known as “victim blaming”), for example because he / she dressed up and was sexually harassed (attribution of blame). Ultimately, what remains is the denial of humanity (dehumanization) of the victims, who are ״ not worth being treated like people "(Bandura et ab, 1996; Aquino, Reed, Thau & Freeman, 2007; Tsay-Vogel & Krakowiak, 2016) .

In addition to these selectively used mechanisms, personal characteristics, traits and characteristics of an individual also play a decisive role in relation to moral disengagement. The extent to which the personality of an individual influences moral judgment and thus moral disengagement is explained in the following chapter.

2.1.2 The influence of personality

In a study, Bandura et al. (1996) the moral disengagement with regard to various factors. Among other things, the authors found that men are more likely to use moral disengagement than women. Likewise, individuals tend to be more morally disengaged if they have a tendency to aggressive behavior and less to moral disengagement if they are prone to prosocial behavior. In addition, the higher their moral disengagement, the less guilty subjects felt. However, no differences were found with regard to socio-economic factors (Bandura et al., 1996). In addition, the influence of the intentions, motivations and the result of morally questionable actions on moral disengagement should be emphasized (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2013), whereby, according to the authors, the focus for women is on "taking care", whereas for men the focus is on Righteousness lies. Compared to men, women also felt more guilty about playing the "bad guy" in video games (Hartmann, 2012).

In the area of ​​the five main dimensions of personality (Big Five, see Chapter 2.4), it was found that people with lower values ​​for tolerance and conscientiousness had higher values ​​for moral disengagement (Egan et ah, 2015). The question of whether the other main dimensions also have an influence on moral disengagement is therefore relevant for research. This aspect is therefore taken up again in Section 2.4 and dealt with in detail.

Krakowiak and Tsay first tested the tendency of test subjects to moral disengagement in a study (2011). Then the test participants were asked to read a story and were tested again for moral disengagement, but in the

With regard to the morally questionable protagonist of the story. The authors observed that individuals with a tendency to moral disengagement also tend to moral disengagement in a protagonist who seems morally unclear and thus support Bandura's (Bandura, 2002; Bandura et ab, 1996) thesis that the tendency to moral disengagement is not is limited only to the individual himself, but can also expand to the environment. Those who are more inclined to moral disengagement in themselves also apply it more often in others (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). In this way, more immoral acts are accepted by others. Conversely, this means that people who are less prone to moral disengagement tend to avoid media content with morally questionable characters or antiheroes (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). Another study by Shafer and Raney (2012), in which the series was 24 ״ ”the stimulus, showed that individuals had higher scores on moral disengagement the higher the similarity between themselves and the series person was perceived. The liking of protagonists also showed that recipients were more susceptible to moral disengagement. We consider our own personality as a starting point and are more likely to apply moral disengagement to people who are similar or likeable to us (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). Another study by Tian and Hoffner (2010) showed that parasocial interaction and identification (see Chapter 2.3) with protagonists also have an influence on moral disengagement. These two constructs are relevant for moral disengagement in the area of ​​media consumption. The following chapter therefore provides an overview of moral disengagement in connection with media reception and evaluation.

2.1.3 Media reception and evaluation

One explanation for why individuals enjoy media with morally questionable content or series people is on the one hand moral disengagement, since we can justify such characters and their actions through the mechanisms. Another reason for this can be found in affective disposition theory. The theory of affective disposition according to Zillmann (2000) examines the process of reception in media entertainment. The audience evaluates media people in terms of their moral values. The viewers sympathize with those they like more and tend to make negative judgments about those they like less or not. The highest tension is experienced when a positive one

The most unlikely outcome for a beloved protagonist (Zillmann, 2000; Raney, 2004; Eden, Daalmans & Johnson, 2017).

The enjoyment (see Chapter 2.5) of media reception is also increased the more we like a series person (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). This could also be an explanation for applying moral disengagement, as we tend to justify morally questionable behavior of loved ones as we would like to continue to like them (Raney, 2004). The theory of cognitive dissonance according to Festinger (1969) also provides a possible explanation why we tend to use moral disengagement with liked media people. According to this theory, when there is an imbalance in tension, we tend to balance our emotions, desires, and ideas (Festinger, 1969). On the basis of the cognitive dissonance theory, the assumption can be made that it would be uncomfortable to no longer be able to like a beloved protagonist because he is acting immorally. Moral disengagement can be seen as a suitable tool to get rid of this inconvenience and to be able to justify the immoral behavior.

2.1.4 Moral disengagement in the context of this work

Moral disengagement describes the justification to oneself or others about one's own or someone else's morally questionable actions. In 1996, Bandura et al. several mechanisms with which people decouple themselves from self-sanctions through their own or someone else's questionable actions and justify such actions. Since individuals strive for a state of moral equilibrium, but still want to experience the highest possible enjoyment in media reception, they use moral disengagement to be able to continue to like their beloved characters (Raney, 2004).

In the series "Game of Thrones" there are a multitude of such morally questionable characters and antiheroes who develop further in the course of the series. The phenomenon that more and more series with so-called antiheroes or morally questionable characters are produced and consumed needs to be explored. It is also important to find an explanation for why series with ״ evil “or morally questionable, ambivalent characters continue to grow in popularity. Above all, the investigation with regard to the personality of individuals who receive such media content deserves attention, as there are no adequate explanations or studies for this phenomenon.For this reason, the present work is dedicated to the influence of personality factors on morality

Disengagement. More precisely, the influence of the liking of a series person, the classification in "good / bad" of the character and the corresponding moral justification of the series person is the subject of the investigation. For this purpose, the effect of the parasocial interaction and the identification with serial people is analyzed. In addition, the focus of this work is on the still little explored possible connection of the Big Five to moral disengagement, more precisely the influence of extraversion, conscientiousness and tolerance. In addition, enjoyment is examined in terms of its connection to moral disengagement. The following chapters go into more detail on the individual aspects.

2.2 Character evaluation

When consuming series, recipients take positions on different series people. According to a series ranking on filmstarts.de (״ The best series “, O.D.) it has been shown that the popularity of series whose protagonists are antiheroes is increasing. Antiheroes form the concept of a serial person who appears to be neither good nor bad and whose actions can show morally questionable tendencies, whose motivation and intention are nevertheless perceived as positive. Protagonists of this kind, like Walter White from "Breaking Bad", who is building a drug empire to secure his family financially, or Dexter from the series of the same name, who kills other murderers with his urge to murder, are increasing in popularity. Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel (2013) found that the popularity of the series characters has an impact on moral disengagement. This, with its mechanisms, is used as an attempt to explain the liking of such antiheroes (Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2013).

The study by Krakowiak and Tsay-Vogel (2013) showed that in a short story, a person's motivation for immoral behavior influences the reader's perception. The intention of an action is more important than the result of the action. Thus, the motivation and intention of a protagonist influence the moral disengagement of the audience. These results raise the question of whether generally immoral actions can be justified with a good motivation or intention. Furthermore, Krakowiak and Tsay-Vogel (2013) found that not only motivation and intention have an influence on moral disengagement, but also the liking of a fictional person. These results corroborate the

Findings from an earlier study by Krakowiak and Tsay (2011), in which the influence of the perceived similarity between recipient and protagonist as well as the liking of a series person was examined.

In the study by Krakowiak and Tsay-Vogel (2013), participants read a story and then answered questionnaires about their perception. A series, especially the one over several seasons, is often consumed over a period of years, sometimes episode like a marathon, directly after episode ("binge-watching"). The recipients deal with the series characters over a longer period of time. This is a different, more intense reception (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011) of a fictional story and raises the question of whether and to what extent the popularity, the "good / bad" rating and the justification of the actions of a serial person lead to moral disengagement influenced by individuals.

The assumption that the liking of a series person has an influence on the moral disengagement gives reason to consider the extent to which the popularity of the series person and the moral disengagement are related. This leads to the suspicion that the more a recipient likes a series person and, according to Raney (2004) would like to continue to like them, the moral disengagement increases accordingly. Thus the following first hypothesis arises:

Hl a) The more a series person is liked, the higher the moral disengagement of the recipient in relation to this series person.

The view that we tend to justify a person morally if we rate them more positively can also be traced back to previous studies (Zilmann, 2002; Raney, 2004; Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). The assumption is that with the assessment in the positive direction of a series person, the corresponding moral disengagement is also connected. The following hypothesis is derived from this:

Hl b) The more positively a series person is rated, the higher the recipient's moral disengagement with regard to this series person.

The assumption that the righteousness of a person assessed by individuals, i.e. the general moral assessment of the character of a serial person, also correlates with the moral decoupling is also based on previous stages (Krakowiak & Tsay, 2011). Accordingly, the presumption results that the moral disengagement increases with the righteousness of a series person assessed by the recipients. This leads to the following hypothesis:

Hl c) The more the actions of a series person are felt to be justified, the higher the moral disengagement of the recipient in relation to this series person.

The parasocial interaction and identification could also influence the justification of immoral behavior, since the assessment, liking or disliking and judging a serial person also influences the parasocial relationship (Wohlan et al. 2017). This is discussed in more detail in the following section.

2.3 Parasocial interaction and identification with serial people

The term parasocial interaction (PSI) was defined by Horton and Wohl (1956) as the illusion of a media-created face-to-face relationship between a media person and the audience, and from social interaction as such to a parasocial relationship derived. The key stimuli that make up a simple social interaction, such as the appearance of the media person or the observability of their gestures, are particularly present on television. Some recipients speak of the feeling of knowing the media person better than, for example, neighbors or acquaintances (Tian & Hoffner, 2010). In some fomiats, the viewer is addressed directly and the media person behaves as if it were a real conversation. The viewer feels addressed personally and interacts with the performer on an equal footing. Subjective camera work creates a feeling of direct experience, security and the illusion of a shared past. However, it is a one-sided interaction without effective reciprocity: the recipient can choose between the parasocial relationships and witness these moments, but cannot comment on them or influence the interaction. So it is controlled and steered by the media person, the performer. For these reasons, no joint development is possible and one speaks of a parasocial interaction (Horton & Wohl, 1956).

Schramm, Hartmann and Klektiven (2002) differentiated the term PSI from parasocial communication, as it is a process that takes place without intention. In addition, there is no mutual co-orientation. There is neither an exchange of roles nor an exchange of feelings and a reciprocal one

There is no dependency on the behavior of the people. Gleich (1996) sees certain advantages through the possibility of interrupting the PSI at any time without consequences and through the lack of pressure to self-present the recipient compared to real social interaction. In addition, Gleich (1996) explained the term PSI as a process of reception in which the audience is not a passive observer, but rather interacts with the media. A study by Gleich (1996) found that test subjects showed reactions to their favorite media characters on television with a quality and intensity that are usual for regular social relationships. In a second study, Gleich (1997) found that viewers built (parasocial) relationships with media people, but not in the same intensity and quality as they would with good friends.

Further functions of PSI are the exploration and development of new role opportunities. The viewer can slip into an infinite number of roles, restore roles that have already been discarded or anticipate future roles. A better understanding and, consequently, a better way of dealing with others in reality should be adapted from this (Schranmi et ah, 2002). PSI also has compensatory functions and can serve as an aid for isolated, lonely people, who gain a certain social mobility through PSI or because the media person acts as a substitute for real people (Horton & Wohl, 1956). While Horton and Wohl (1956) viewed PSI as a concept that only takes place temporarily during media reception, the term was often used as a synonym for a parasocial bond with media people that goes beyond reception (Tian & Hoffner, 2010) . Furthermore, Vorderer and Knobloch (1996) found that shyness or sociability of people have an interactive influence on the intensity of parasocial relationships. In addition, the parasocial relationship for certain audience groups is more of a complement, for others it is a substitute for real social interactions. Markert and Suckfüll (2001), who in a study with PSI and the parasocial relationship of viewers of the series "X-Files" found that fans of the series developed a very strong parasocial relationship with the protagonists.

Previous studies showed that the higher the similarity between a media person and the recipient is perceived by him, the more likely immoral acts are perceived as justified (Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2011). Tian and Hoffner (2010) also found that the perceived similarity between a series person and the self has a positive influence on the identification with a series person as well as on the PSI with a series person. This PSI is for series

People who are liked or rated as neutral were significantly higher than those in the series who are not liked. So the more a series person is liked, the higher the PSI and the more a person is liked, the more likely the viewer will use moral disengagement (Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2011). These observations showed that the recipient's personality plays a decisive role in relation to the PSI. It is questionable whether the PSI increases with the liking of these series people with a series like ״ Game of Thrones “, which contains many morally questionable series characters and which has a high number of fans thanks to the immense character development. Also of interest is the issue of moral disengagement in relation to PSI among less popular series people and the question of the extent to which PSI differs among the various series people and what effects this has on moral disengagement. This leads to the following hypothesis:

H2: The higher the PSI score with a series person, the higher the recipient's moral disengagement score in relation to this series person.

In contrast to PSI, which is about the role relationship or the interaction between the recipient and the series person, identification is about experiencing media reception as if it were happening to you. Identification is therefore an imaginative process through which individuals take on the identity, goals and perspective of a serial person. In doing so, the audience should forget themselves and become the series person, so to speak (Cohen, 2001). Identification with a serial person is neither an attitude nor an emotion or perception, it is a process that takes place during media reception. The recipient becomes less aware of himself and temporarily replaces himself with increased emotional and cognitive connections with one or more serial people in order to intensify the experience of reception (Cohen, 2001).

Tian and Hoffner (2010) found that identification with a serial person during reception had a positive effect on PSI. It was also observed that moral disengagement increases the higher the perceived similarity between the recipient and the series person is (Tsay & Krakowiak, 2011). Because identification with a serial person is directly related to PSI, it can be assumed that, analogous to PSI, higher identification also influences moral disengagement. For this reason, the following hypothesis is tested in this study:

H3: The more a recipient identifies with a series person, the higher the recipient's moral disengagement with regard to this series person.

The PSI and the identification with serial people only cover a small part of personality factors related to moral disengagement. So far it has not been adequately explained which characteristics of individuals have an influence on moral disengagement. That is why the following section deals with the Big Five of personality.

2.4 The Big Five of Personality

The liking of a series person, the quality of the PSI and the identification are influenced by the personality of a recipient. Using the five main dimensions of personality (Big Five according to McCrae & Costa, 1987), the present work examines the influence of these personality variables on the perception and moral evaluation of a serial person. These variables are openness to new things, extraversion, tolerance, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

Individuals with a high degree of extraversion are described as sociable, active, talkative, and assertive. The opposite side, the introversion, is more likely to be associated with properties such as "quiet", "silent" or "withdrawn". Neuroticism is designed to predict how emotionally unstable a person is. Individuals with increased neuroticism are marked as insecure, nervous, anxious, and depressed. Individuals with a high level of conscientiousness are described as determined, persistent, disciplined and reliable. The dimension of openness to new things describes with a high degree of people that they are interested in new experiences, experiences and impressions. Compatibility illustrates interpersonal behavior. Individuals with a high level of tolerance are portrayed as altruistic, tend towards interpersonal trust, are cooperative and indulgent, in addition, people with a lower tolerance are portrayed as cool, critical and suspicious (Rammstedt, Kemper, Klein, Beierlein & Kovaleva, 2013).

An experimental study (Pallesen, Nielsen, Mageroy, Andreassen & Einarsen, 2017) examined bullying in a work setting, whereby a bully, a target and a control group were tested on the main dimensions of personality. The subjects of the target group were understood as the victims of bullying.

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