Historical group victimization entails moral obligations for descendants

Nyla R. Branscombe, Ruth H. Warner, Yechiel Klar, Saulo Fernández

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When is greater morality expected of groups that have experienced intergroup victimization? Six experiments illustrate that meaning making for the victims, but not the perpetrators, can lead observers to perceive the victims' descendants as morally obligated to refrain from harming others. Focusing on the lessons of the past for the victim group increases observers' expectations that contemporary victim group members should know better than harm others. Deriving benefits from a group's past suffering, for both a well-known instance such as the Holocaust or a previously unknown group, elevates victim moral obligations (but not victim moral rights or perpetrator moral obligations). When the descendants of a historically victimized group violate the perceived lesson derived from having suffered-to be more moral-and instead does harm to others, then observers respond more negatively toward them than harm-doers who lack a victimization history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Benefit finding
  • Holocaust victimization
  • Moral obligations


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