The Cost of Opposition: Harming our Own Rather than Helping our Opponent

33 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2020 Last revised: 26 May 2022

See all articles by Rachel Gershon

Rachel Gershon

University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management

Ariel Fridman

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Date Written: August 27, 2020

Abstract

Would you prefer to harm your own group or aid an opposing group? Across polarized issues (political party, abortion access, and gun control; N = 2,214), participants given this lose-lose choice prefer to harm their own side of a cause rather than aid the opposition. Our findings run counter to a harm-minimizing strategy as individuals generally believe that organizations promoting their side spend their funds more efficiently than opposing organizations. In an incentive-compatible study, we demonstrate that participants are willing to subtract, on average, over three times as much from their side in order to avoid giving $1 to the opposing side. We propose that these decisions are driven by identity concerns: individuals believe that supporting an opposing group is a stronger negative signal of their values than harming their own group. Shifting perceived group norms leads to corresponding behavioral changes, with important implications for compromise and intergroup conflict.

Keywords: intergroup conflict, identity, norms, decision-making, polarization

JEL Classification: M, H

Suggested Citation

Gershon, Rachel and Fridman, Ariel, The Cost of Opposition: Harming our Own Rather than Helping our Opponent (August 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3682145 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3682145

Rachel Gershon (Contact Author)

University of California San Diego, Rady School of Management ( email )

La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

Ariel Fridman

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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