The Cost of Opposition: Harming our Own Rather than Helping our Opponent
33 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2020 Last revised: 26 May 2022
Date Written: August 27, 2020
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: Suggested Citation