After a month of anguished indecision, Joseph Darby, a U.S. military policeman stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, sent Army authorities photographs of his colleagues torturing prisoners. For his act of heroism, he received so many death threats that he had to live in protective military custody at an undisclosed location.

Darby is no exception, shows a recent research article. “We don’t necessarily like people who do the right thing,” says Benoît Monin, an associate professor of...

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