Justification of aggression in several Asian and European Countries with different religious and cultural background

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International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development
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This paper reviews the results of two decades of research on moral approval of aggressive acts conducted in several countries with different religious and cultural backgrounds. A nationally-adapted version of the Lagerspetz and Westman questionnaire was administered to university students in Finland, Poland, Spain, Japan, Iran and India. Respondents had to indicate levels of justification of several aggressive acts of different quality and intensity in the context of different social justifications. Although slight method variations preclude the possibility of direct comparison, the pattern of effects in the different countries leads to interesting conclusions. In all countries: more drastic forms of aggression (e.g., killing, torture) are less accepted than non-dangerous forms of such behavior (e.g., hindering, being ironic); and aggressive acts that are socially justified (in terms of protection of self or other) are clearly more accepted than ones with no such justification (problems of communication). However, there are also some striking differences among the samples studied. Thus, patterns of moral approval of various kinds of aggressive acts are only to some extent common to most cultures, while there are some culturally bound differences in these attitudes.
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