Pats on the back or pointing the finger: Judgments of praise and blame
Shirley Matile Ogletree, Richard L. Archer

Interpersonal judgments of others may differ based on participants’ deterministic versus libertarian attitudes as well as the amount and kind of information provided about a target individual. The two studies reported here explored how four factors impact judgments of blame and praise: 1) deterministic attitudes, 2) perceived similarity to the judged individual, 3) the childhood background information provided, and 4) an ability-versus-effort explanation of behavior. Based on vignette portrayals, blame was reduced when disability versus lack of effort was described as a possible explanation, when participants perceived themselves as similar to the target individual, when information about childhood hardships was provided, and when libertarian attitudes were lower (Study 1 only). Fewer factors were related to praiseworthiness, with coming from an impoverished childhood being the only consistent finding across the two studies. Judgments of blame fit more clearly with hypotheses generated from psychological theories, but praiseworthiness predictions are not as easily explained.


blame; praise; determinism; interpersonal judgments

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