The effects of synchrony on group moral hypocrisy
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Description: Humans have evolved various social technologies such as synchrony or ritual that bolster group cohesion and facilitate cooperation. While important for small communities, the face-to-face nature of such technologies makes them infeasible in large-scale societies where risky coordination between anonymous individuals must be regulated by group norms, which are enforced through moral judgment and, ultimately, altruistic punishment. However, the society-wide applicability of group norms is often compromised by moral hypocrisy, i.e., biasing moral judgment in favor of closer subgroup members such as kith and kin. Wee investigated whether social technologies that facilitate close ties between people also promote moral hypocrisy that may hamper large-scale group functioning. We recruited 129 student subjects that either interacted with a confederate in high synchrony or low synchrony conditions or performed movements alone. Subsequently, participants judged a moral transgression committed by the confederate toward another anonymous student. The results showed that highly synchronized participants judged the confederate’s transgression less harshly than the participants in the other two conditions and that this effect was mediated by the perception of group unity with the confederate. These results suggest that, if not properly integrated with group symbols and ideologies such as within religious or political systems, synchrony may create bonded subgroups hampering the wider application of group norms.