ONE OF THE BEST INSTRUMENTS used to predict moral behavior is the Ascription of Responsibility Scale developed by Shalom Schwartz at the University of Wisconsin. Those who rate high in “ascription of responsibility” endorse such items on the scale as, “If I hurt someone unintentionally, I would feel almost as guilty as I would if I had done the same thing intentionally” or “Being very upset or preoccupied does not excuse a person for doing anything he would ordinarily avoid.”1
When our sense of responsibility is weakened, we are more apt to behave unethically.
During the Second World War, many civil servants in Germany were willing to do clerical work for the holocaust. Their readiness amazed the Nazi command. The civil servants saw themselves as only doing paperwork, not exterminating Jews.1
Milgram’s experiment on obedience (Trap 1) tested this tendency to deny responsibility when one is less directly involved. An additional subject was signed up to help. This new subject was only to administer the memory test while the other subject administered the shock. Forty new subjects were run through the experiment in this manner. Out of the forty, thirty-seven complied fully. Obedience for these new subjects that were indirectly involved rose to 93 percent. That is, 93 percent