Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Moral Disengagement in U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association (Ncaa) Division III (Diii) Collegiate Athletes and Non-Athletes

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Moral Disengagement in U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association (Ncaa) Division III (Diii) Collegiate Athletes and Non-Athletes

Article excerpt


Sport has a longstanding reputation of providing participants an opportunity to learn about positive values that may translate to everyday life (e.g., the value of hard work, teamwork, communication; Dubois, 1986). With an increasing amount of media attention highlighting the negative or transgressive behaviors that athletes engage in (Badenhausen, 2012), some researchers within sport have worked to gain a better understanding of why this is occurring (e.g., Corrion, Long, Smith, & d'Arripe-Longueville, 2009; Kavussanu, 2007, 2008; Long, Pantaléon, Brnant, & d'Arripe-Longueville, 2006). Transgressive behaviors are defined as those actions which violate the rules of competition (Weiss & Bredemeier, 1990).

A theory widely used in regulating moral behavior is the social cognitive theory of moral thought and action (Bandura, 1991), which explains how moral thought and affective self-reactions, moral conduct, and environmental factors all interact and influence each other. Moral disengagement falls within this theory. Moral disengagement describes the process of one participating in transgressive behaviors that contradict moral standards without feeling negative affect, through the use of eight psychosocial constructs. The eight constructs are broken down into four different subsets.

The first set of constructs focuses on the negative behavior itself and includes moral justification, euphemistic labeling, and advantageous comparison (Bandura, 1991). Moral justification is when an individual turns a destructive behavior into a positive one accepted by the person and society. Euphemistic labeling describes the process of rephrasing the transgressive behavior into sounding less harmful. Advantageous comparison involves comparing the negative behavior with an act more damaging to make the original behavior sound less harmful (Bandura, 1991). The second set of mechanisms by Bandura (1991) pertains to the accountability of the individual and includes displacement and diffusion of responsibility. Displacement of responsibility involves individuals placing blame for the consequences on a more authoritative individual. Diffusion of responsibility is achieved through division of labor, group decision-making, or group action (Bandura, 1991). The third set of constructs by Bandura (1991) comprises the consequences of the negative behavior and includes disregard or distortion of consequences. The harmful behavior is more likely to occur when the individual is able to reduce the amount of harm. The last set of mechanisms by Bandura (1991) is related to the victim of the act and includes dehumanization and attribution of blame. Dehumanization is the process of the individual removing human qualities from another person. The victim is viewed without any type of emotions, worries, or expectations. Attribution of blame characterizes a situation where an individual harms another because the individual perceives to be provoked by the victim or the situation.

Moral disengagement research originated outside of the sporting context (e.g., Bandura, Barabaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996; Osofsky, Bandura, & Zimbardo, 2005). Researchers have examined the role of moral disengagement in the workplace (e.g., Claybourn 2011), in schools (e.g., Thornbuerg & Jungert, 2014), as well as in prisons (e.g., South & Wood, 2006). In sport moral research, the construct of moral disengagement has been used as a theoretical and behavioral framework (e.g., Corrion et al., 2009; Kavussanu, 2007, 2008; Long et al., 2006).

Long et al., (2006) provided the first evidence for Bandura's moral disengagement in sport. They examined the perceptions of male athletes (ranging in age from 15 to 18 years who had competed at the national and international level) with regard to moral reasoning and behavior. Results revealed that athlete responses related to transgressive behaviors could be classified into the eight psychosocial mechanisms of moral disengagement set forth by Bandura (1991). …

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