J. L Thürmer and Sean M McCrea (2018)

Beyond motivated reasoning: Hostile reactions to critical comments from the outgroup.

Motivation Science, 4:333-346.


People are motivated to process threatening information in a defensive manner. For instance, in self-reports, group members consistently reject threatening outgroup criticism compared with the same criticism from the ingroup (intergroup sensitivity effect). Because self-reports are a poor proxy for actual behavior, it remains unknown whether this defensiveness motivates hostile actions. We fill this gap in the literature: Five experiments (total N = 787) show that group members pay to punish critical outgroup comments, exclude outgroup commenters from a subject pool, and reject ultimatum bargaining offers from outgroup commenters compared with ingroup commenters voicing the same criticism. These defensive behaviors represent hostile actions and are robust in a meta-analysis across our 5 studies. Intergroup sensitivity thus motivates hostile defensive actions. We discuss potential consequences for intergroup relations.