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Moral Disengagement

Moral disengagement is a theory that attempts to show how individuals self-justify heinous violations of ethical standards such as participating in the Holocaust, torture, and other actions reflecting a willingness to harm others. It can also be used to explain the results of the famous Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments, in which experimental subjects were willing to harm or kill another person (Milgram) or cause actual psychological harm to fellow experimental subjects (Stanford Prison Experiment). Albert Bandura’s theory of moral agency, the basis of his theory of moral disengagement, is based on a social-cognitive theory of moral conduct. An individual’s moral conduct is understood in terms of a “self-regulatory system” that first involves monitoring one’s own behavior. Second, a person judges conduct based on his ...

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