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Shadow of conflict: How past conflict influences group cooperation and the use of punishment


Gross, Jörg; De Dreu, Carsten K W; Reddmann, Lennart (2022). Shadow of conflict: How past conflict influences group cooperation and the use of punishment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 171:104152.

Abstract

Intergroup conflict profoundly affects the welfare of groups and can deteriorate intergroup relations long after the conflict is over. Here, we experimentally investigate how the experience of an intergroup conflict influences the ability of groups to establish cooperation after conflict. We induced conflict by using a repeated attacker-defender game in which groups of four are divided into two ‘attackers’ that can invest resources to take away resources from the other two participants in the role of ‘defenders.’ After the conflict, groups engaged in a repeated public goods game with peer-punishment, in which group members could invest resources to benefit the group and punish other group members for their decisions. Previous conflict did not significantly reduce group cooperation compared to a control treatment in which groups did not experience the intergroup conflict. However, when having experienced an intergroup conflict, individuals punished free-riding during the repeated public goods game less harshly and did not react to punishment by previous attackers, ultimately reducing group welfare. This result reveals an important boundary condition for peer punishment institutions. Peer punishment is less able to efficiently promote cooperation amid a ‘shadow of conflict.’ In a third treatment, we tested whether such ‘maladaptive’ punishment patterns induced by previous conflict can be mitigated by hiding the group members’ conflict roles during the subsequent public goods provision game. We find more cooperation when individuals could not identify each other as (previous) attackers and defenders and maladaptive punishment patterns disappeared. Results suggest that intergroup conflict undermines past perpetrators’ legitimacy to enforce cooperation norms. More generally, results reveal that past conflict can reduce the effectiveness of institutions for managing the commons.

Abstract

Intergroup conflict profoundly affects the welfare of groups and can deteriorate intergroup relations long after the conflict is over. Here, we experimentally investigate how the experience of an intergroup conflict influences the ability of groups to establish cooperation after conflict. We induced conflict by using a repeated attacker-defender game in which groups of four are divided into two ‘attackers’ that can invest resources to take away resources from the other two participants in the role of ‘defenders.’ After the conflict, groups engaged in a repeated public goods game with peer-punishment, in which group members could invest resources to benefit the group and punish other group members for their decisions. Previous conflict did not significantly reduce group cooperation compared to a control treatment in which groups did not experience the intergroup conflict. However, when having experienced an intergroup conflict, individuals punished free-riding during the repeated public goods game less harshly and did not react to punishment by previous attackers, ultimately reducing group welfare. This result reveals an important boundary condition for peer punishment institutions. Peer punishment is less able to efficiently promote cooperation amid a ‘shadow of conflict.’ In a third treatment, we tested whether such ‘maladaptive’ punishment patterns induced by previous conflict can be mitigated by hiding the group members’ conflict roles during the subsequent public goods provision game. We find more cooperation when individuals could not identify each other as (previous) attackers and defenders and maladaptive punishment patterns disappeared. Results suggest that intergroup conflict undermines past perpetrators’ legitimacy to enforce cooperation norms. More generally, results reveal that past conflict can reduce the effectiveness of institutions for managing the commons.

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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 > Applied Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
Language:English
Date:2022
Deposited On:17 Nov 2022 17:00
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:39
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0749-5978
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2022.104152
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)