“If revenge evolved as a deterrent, then why is it used so often in the real world? A major reason is the Moralization Gap. People consider the harms they inflict to be justified and forgettable, and the harms they themselves suffer to be unprovoked and grievous. This bookkeeping makes the two sides in an escalating fight count the number of strikes differently and weighs the inflicted harm differently as well.” https://amzn.to/2UQqVBo
Have you ever felt justified by your actions while others condemn them, and they just don’t understand the context? Have you ever felt that when you make a mistake that others blow it way out of proportion? On the other hand, have you ever felt that others seem dismissive of the problems they caused you, and their lack of concern is infuriating? Then what you may be dealing with the Moralization Gap.
“The Moralization Gap is part of a larger phenomenon called self-serving biases. People try to look good. ‘Good’ can mean effective, potent, desirable, and competent, or it can mean virtuous, honest, generous, and altruistic… A social group is a marketplace of cooperators of differing degrees of generosity and trustworthiness, and people advertise themselves as being as generous and trustworthy as they can get away with, which may be a bit more generous and trustworthy than they are… Natural selection may have favored a degree of self-deception so as to suppress the [unconscious] tells at the source. We lie to ourselves so that we’re more believable when we lie to others.” <steven pinker
As Pinker and others suggest, this allows us to effectively argue our social positions by making us believe we and our compatriots hold the moral high ground. In a competition/conflict between nations, groups, and individuals, each side will see themselves more positively than those on the other side. When we do something good, it is because we care – when they do it, they have ulterior motives and are trying to manipulate you. When we harm others, it was a one-off accident, or it was only a minor offense – when they harm us, it is one in a long line of transgressions, and they mean it.
The problem is that we find it difficult to assess our own actions - and those we deal with - from an objective position. This is a benefit of having third-party arbitration to help put things into perspective. Many conflicts are settled with third-party support or by international forums. Getting the outside perspective allows people’s concerns to be heard and terms to be set without necessarily losing face. Without an objective perspective, or even just refusing to accept an objective perspective, we develop a situation where parties assume the other is devious and out to make you look like the bad guy. It happens all the time, to everyone, in every walk of life, because it is very much an aspect of human nature.
In business, some sides form as well: staff and customers, management and employees, between one company and another, between chief executives and shareholders, and between individual personnel. They all can suffer the façade produced by the Moralization Gap, a perspective that paints them a better picture from which to argue effectively. But the opposition suffers from this as well and will have their reality shaped by their perspective. This will lead to a scenario in which each side’s concerns will be brushed aside, and their violations brought to the forefront only to be downplayed anyway.
This is the value of having third-party arbitration to help settle disputes. Sometimes you need to get those involved out of the conflict resolution process and utilize that disinterested third-party asset to make any headway. Mediation may be needed to help counter the Moralization Gap and every human’s inherent self-biases.
For as Nietzsche once alluded, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”