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Social motives in intergroup conflict: group identity and perceived target of threat

Weisel, Ori; Zultan, Ro'i


Ori Weisel

Ro'i Zultan


We experimentally test the social motives behind individual participation in intergroup conflict by manipulating the perceived target of threat—groups or individuals—and the symmetry of conflict. We find that behavior in conflict depends on whether one is harmed by actions perpetrated by the out-group, but not on one’s own influence on the outcome of the out-group. The perceived target of threat dramatically alters decisions to participate in conflict. When people perceive their group to be under threat, they are mobilized to do what is good for the group and contribute to the conflict. On the other hand, if people perceive to be personally under threat, they are driven to do what is good for themselves and withhold their contribution. The first phenomenon is attributed to group identity, possibly combined with a concern for social welfare. The second phenomenon is attributed to a novel victim effect. Another social motive—reciprocity—is ruled out by the data.


Weisel, O., & Zultan, R. (2016). Social motives in intergroup conflict: group identity and perceived target of threat. European Economic Review,

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 4, 2016
Deposit Date Feb 22, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2016
Journal European Economic Review
Print ISSN 0014-2921
Electronic ISSN 0014-2921
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Publisher URL


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