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Description: I do not know if you have been tracking it but my friends and family in and around Ottawa have drawn my attention to the protest/occupation on central Ottawa by the Truckers’ Convoy. The group is comprised of people opposed to the recent vaccination requirements for cross border passage by truckers and demanding an end to all COVID related restrictions, from masks to vaccination requirements across the country. Leaving aside the complex array of claims, counter claims, positions and beliefs (not to mention air horns, car horns and clogged streets) it is clear that there is a LOT of blaming going on in and around the protest/occupation. Can the social psychology of how we think about, ascribe, and react to blame provide us with any insight into the obviously deep feelings being expressed on all side of this issue? Of course, we are all tired, beaten down, and massively inconvenienced (threatened) by 2 years of COVID. What sorts of things do you think the social psychology of blaming might tell us about, and might help us deal with the massively divisive amount of finger pointing currently going on, not just in Ottawa but around Canada and around d the world in relation to the COVID pandemic? Once you have given this some thought, have a read through the linked article to see what recent research on COVID-related blame has to add and suggest.  

Source: How the psychology of blame can explain COVID-19 responses: new research, Ayoub Bouguettaya and Victoria Team, The Conversation.

Date: January 31, 2022

Image by johnhain from Pixabay     

Article Link:   

I think that one of the biggest challenges related to dealing with the entire COVID-related impact array is the us/them/we test it has placed upon us all. We have all been affected by the pandemic, whether or not we have contracted COVID (yet) or not. When such things happen, we look for causes, we look for mitigation and/or avoidance strategies and we look to assign blame. At a point in history where, in the western world, we have focused more and more intently on individual concerns and responsibilities we seem to find particular difficulty in dealing adaptively with the “we are all in this together” defining aspect of the pandemic. We need to seek and find a more social perspective or at least to remind ourselves of the many social strands that are vital to who we are and how we get along in the world. So, a little social psychology of blame and less of the fundamental attribution error (look it up) could be exactly what we need!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How many blame vectors (ways in which some people are blaming other people for the things that are really bothering them) can you see happening (or that happened) on the ground in Ottawa and in the discussions, claims and counter claims that have spun out of the event?
  2. What does the psychology of blame (i.e., the path model of blame) add to your thinking about current “wish-the-pandemic-was-gone” events?
  3. What can be learned through research and consideration of various international differences of approach to COVID management about blame in relation to this (and future) pandemics that could be applied now or added into our future planning in order to reduce the heat of the blame-game currently under way?

References (Read Further):

Bouguettaya, A., Walsh, C. E., & Team, V. (2022). Social and Cognitive Psychology Theories in Understanding COVID-19 as the Pandemic of Blame. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 672395. Link

Malle, B. F., Guglielmo, S., & Monroe, A. E. (2014). A theory of blame. Psychological Inquiry, 25(2), 147-186. Link

Porumbescu GA, Moynihan D, Anastasopoulos J, Olsen AL. (2020) Motivated Reasoning and Blame: Responses to Performance Framing and Outgroup Triggers during COVID-19. arXiv; Link

Friedman, Uri (2020) New Zealand’s Prome Miniters May Be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet. The Atlantic. Link

Walker, D., & Vul, E. (2021). Blame the Player and the Game. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (Vol. 43, No. 43). Link

Genschow, O., & Vehlow, B. (2021). Free to blame? Belief in free will is related to victim blaming. Consciousness and cognition, 88, 103074. Link

Williams, S. N., Armitage, C. J., Tampe, T., & Dienes, K. A. (2021). Public perceptions of non-adherence to pandemic protection measures by self and others: A study of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. PloS one, 16(10), e0258781. Link

Perkins, K. M., Munguia, N., Ellenbecker, M., Moure-Eraso, R., & Velazquez, L. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic lessons to facilitate future engagement in the global climate crisis. Journal of Cleaner Production, 290, 125178. Link