Collectivism and the meaning of suffering

Daniel Sullivan, Mark J. Landau, Aaron C. Kay, Zachary K. Rothschild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

People need to understand why an instance of suffering occurred and what purpose it might have. One widespread account of suffering is a repressive suffering construal (RSC): interpreting suffering as occurring because people deviate from social norms and as having the purpose of reinforcing the social order. Based on the theorizing of Emile Durkheim and others, we propose that RSC is associated with social morality-the belief that society dictates morality-and is encouraged by collectivist (as opposed to individualist) sentiments. Study 1 showed that dispositional collectivism predicts both social morality and RSC. Studies 2-4 showed that priming collectivist (vs. individualist) self-construal increases RSC of various types of suffering and that this effect is mediated by increased social morality (Study 4). Study 5 examined behavioral intentions, demonstrating that parents primed with a collectivist self-construal interpreted children's suffering more repressively and showed greater support for corporal punishment of children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1039
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume103
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Collectivism
  • Individualism
  • Moral foundations
  • Repressive suffering construal
  • Suffering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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