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Anticipatory Threat Mitigates the Breakdown of Group Cooperation


Lojowska, Maria; Gross, Jörg; De Dreu, Carsten K W (2023). Anticipatory Threat Mitigates the Breakdown of Group Cooperation. Psychological Science, 34(1):87-98.

Abstract

Humans are exposed to environmental and economic threats that can profoundly affect individual survival and group functioning. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that threat exposure can increase collective action, the effects of threat on decision-making have been mainly investigated at the individual level. Here we examine how threat exposure and concomitant physiological responses modulate cooperation in small groups. Individuals (N = 105, ages 18–34 years) in groups of three were exposed to threat of electric shocks while deciding how much to contribute to a public good. Threat of shock induced a state of physiological freezing and, compared with no-threat conditions, reduced free riding and enabled groups to maintain higher cooperation over time. Exploratory analyses revealed that more cooperative responses under threat were driven by stronger baseline prosociality, suggesting that habitual prosociality is reinforced under threat. The current results support the view that human groups respond to outside threat with increased cooperation.

Abstract

Humans are exposed to environmental and economic threats that can profoundly affect individual survival and group functioning. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that threat exposure can increase collective action, the effects of threat on decision-making have been mainly investigated at the individual level. Here we examine how threat exposure and concomitant physiological responses modulate cooperation in small groups. Individuals (N = 105, ages 18–34 years) in groups of three were exposed to threat of electric shocks while deciding how much to contribute to a public good. Threat of shock induced a state of physiological freezing and, compared with no-threat conditions, reduced free riding and enabled groups to maintain higher cooperation over time. Exploratory analyses revealed that more cooperative responses under threat were driven by stronger baseline prosociality, suggesting that habitual prosociality is reinforced under threat. The current results support the view that human groups respond to outside threat with increased cooperation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 January 2023
Deposited On:15 Nov 2022 15:46
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:39
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0956-7976
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/09567976221104037
PubMed ID:36287184
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)