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Br J Soc Psychol. 2018 Jul;57(3):524-546. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12246. Epub 2018 Feb 21.

Individual differences in social control: Who 'speaks up' when witnessing uncivil, discriminatory, and immoral behaviours?

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University of Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
IFFSTAR, Versailles, France.
University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.


This research examined the personality characteristics of individuals who 'speak up' and confront perpetrators of norm transgressions. We tested whether those who intervene tend to be 'bitter complainers' or 'well-adjusted leaders'. In four studies (total N = 1,003), we measured several individual differences that are directly implicated by at least one of the two concepts. We also presented participants with uncivil, discriminatory, and immoral behaviours and asked them how likely they would be to intervene if they were to witness each of these behaviours as a bystander. The results confirmed the well-adjusted leader hypothesis: Participants' self-reported tendency to confront perpetrators correlated positively with altruism, extraversion, social responsibility, acceptance by peers, independent self-construal, emotion regulation, persistence, self-directedness, age, occupation, and monthly salary, but not with aggressiveness or low self-esteem. Individuals who confront prejudice also speak up against other immoral and uncivil behaviours. We discuss the implications of these findings for the perpetuation and change of social norms.


bystander intervention; civil courage; morality; social control; social norms

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