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Explanations > Behaviors > Blame > Blamestorming

Description | Discussion | See also



'Blamestorming' is a process whereby a number of people assign blame to a person or group. It typically happens within a group setting, where one person criticizes someone else. Then somebody else echoes the sentiment and perhaps adds further reason why the target person is to blame. Before long, people are queuing up to add their gripe or just show their support.

Blamestorms often start slow, escalate quickly, sustain for a while and then decline fairly quickly. They can dominate a whole conversation or be a relatively small 'storm in a teacup'. At their most intense, they can become highly escalated, with the target person or group being severely criticized.

The target of the blame is typically judged to have done something that contravenes social values, making it easy for everyone to take part. Within the blamestorming, which is often done in a single 'session', there is likely to be very low tolerance for anyone who seeks to defend the target.


The social pressure to conform can be very strong, and the more other people conform the more the individual feels pressure to do likewise. Blaming is a classic social activity that people may join in to avoid being blamed themselves. A basic unspoken purpose is often to gain status, putting all members of the group above the target person. This is one reason why blamestorms are often aimed at people of higher status.

Blamestorms can whip up other blamestorms as accused people create their own weather system of finger-pointing. This can lead to long-running feuds where individuals and factions keep an eye out for culpability they can use to blamestorm others. This can create an ongoing poisonous atmosphere where more attention is paid to the blame game than real work, where people hedge their actions and avoid risks, and where any business operates at way below its real potential.

While everyone knows that blamestorming can be an unkind process, many of us still do it. Why? Willpower can be a factor in whether people conform enough to create a 'blamestorm'. This is one reason why 'Friday afternoon blamestorms' are common, as people are tired from the week's work and lack the ethical willpower to step back and refuse to blame. The target may also be just a handy person onto which the blamestormers can project their frustrations. The work of Solomon Asch in highlighting how easily people are influenced by the majority again shows how easily blamestorming might happen.

See also

Vulnerability and Values, Normative Social Influence


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