Facebook users in Russia, unlike in America, are more likely to justify and forgive themselves when they do harm.

These are the results of the survey among the Facebook users that was conducted as part of the three-year interdisciplinary research “Stress, health and psychological well-being: Cross-cultural research”. The study is the first one of this kind and has been carried out by Russian, English, and American researchers by using data from the global social network. The project has brought together researchers from various fields: psychology, linguistics, IT, data science, and machine learning.

 “SPbU’s researchers used a survey to assess how cognitive mechanisms justify our faults, inadequacies, or mistakes under good reason. 30 years ago, this phenomenon was described by American scientists as moral disengagement”, — said Ianina Ledovaia, lecturer at the Department of General Psychology, SPbU and a project’s coordinator. Albert Bandura, Canadian-American psychologist, describes this concept and developed eight mechanisms how it works.

About the research

The idea is this: we have some social, contextual, and inner, cognitive and emotional, attitudes that we use to justify what we do. By doing so, we can “apply” or “not apply” these ethical standards in a particular situation. For example, we can say that we don’t break social standards when we do harm by saying that our boss told us so or “everybody does so”, or “it is our tradition””.

Coordinator of the project, SPbU’s lecturer Ianina Ledovaia


The data received from the survey among the Facebook users (they immediately received their concise “psychological portrait”) tell that Russian people are more likely to justify and forgive themselves when they do harm, unlike American people.

The data received formed grounds for other research in adjacent areas. Now the researchers analyze data on “victim blaming” among Russian and American students.

The research also focuses on “negative behavior”, in other words trolling in Facebook. We can also encounter several differences here: American people are slightly more likely to tell that they are trolling and they more often tell that they are being trolled.

“All in all, those who uses Facebook several times a day or spend whole days there are more likely to tell that they do aggressive things to other users. It is little wonder, — said Ianina Ledovaia. — It can be explained by the probability terms. The more time you spend in social networks, the more messages you send. The same situation is with the positive messages, but it was beyond our research scope”.

More information can be found in September issue of “St Petersburg University”.