Effective Cooperation-Facilitating Social Institutions Reduce Strategic Intergroup Biases

44 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2013 Last revised: 29 Jan 2016

Date Written: March 18, 2013


Shared group memberships enhance cooperation, which can provide a powerful instrumental incentive for individuals to preferentially affiliate and coordinate with ingroup over outgroup members. However, we posit that incentives to preferentially affiliate are likely to be contingent on the full set of cooperative affordances available in an environment. Four studies tested the hypothesis that one particular alternate cooperative affordance – effective social institutions (e.g., rule of law) – can attenuate strategic affiliative biases by enhancing inter-individual cooperation across group boundaries. Multi-national survey data revealed that trust in cooperation-facilitating social institutions negatively predicts indices of affiliative bias, independent of other drivers and forms of intergroup bias. In contrast, national levels of corruption (weak institutions) predict greater bias. Finally, an experiment that manipulated the presence vs. absence of third party punishers or rewarders in one-shot trust games provided causal evidence that cooperation-facilitating institutions can decrease strategic bias among individuals not biased for other reasons.

Keywords: intergroup bias, intergroup relations, cooperation, cooperative contingencies, institutional trust, prejudice

Suggested Citation

Packer, Dominic and Kugler, Matthew B., Effective Cooperation-Facilitating Social Institutions Reduce Strategic Intergroup Biases (March 18, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2235092 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2235092

Dominic Packer (Contact Author)

Lehigh University ( email )

17 Memorial Dr. East
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Matthew B. Kugler

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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