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Environmental stress increases out-group aggression and intergroup conflict in humans


De Dreu, Carsten K W; Gross, Jörg; Reddmann, Lennart (2022). Environmental stress increases out-group aggression and intergroup conflict in humans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 377(1851):20210147.

Abstract

Peaceful coexistence and trade among human groups can be fragile and intergroup relations frequently transition to violent exchange and conflict. Here we specify how exogenous changes in groups' environment and ensuing carrying-capacity stress can increase individual participation in intergroup conflict, and out-group aggression in particular. In two intergroup contest experiments, individuals could contribute private resources to out-group aggression (versus in-group defense). Environmental unpredictability, induced by making non-invested resources subject to risk of destruction (versus not), created psychological stress and increased participation in and coordination of out-group attacks. Archival analyses of interstate conflicts showed, likewise, that sovereign states engage in revisionist warfare more when their pre-conflict economic and climatic environment were more volatile and unpredictable. Given that participation in conflict is wasteful, environmental unpredictability not only made groups more often victorious but also less wealthy. Macro-level changes in the natural and economic environment can be a root cause of out-group aggression and turn benign intergroup relations violent. This article is part of the theme issue 'Intergroup conflict across taxa'.

Abstract

Peaceful coexistence and trade among human groups can be fragile and intergroup relations frequently transition to violent exchange and conflict. Here we specify how exogenous changes in groups' environment and ensuing carrying-capacity stress can increase individual participation in intergroup conflict, and out-group aggression in particular. In two intergroup contest experiments, individuals could contribute private resources to out-group aggression (versus in-group defense). Environmental unpredictability, induced by making non-invested resources subject to risk of destruction (versus not), created psychological stress and increased participation in and coordination of out-group attacks. Archival analyses of interstate conflicts showed, likewise, that sovereign states engage in revisionist warfare more when their pre-conflict economic and climatic environment were more volatile and unpredictable. Given that participation in conflict is wasteful, environmental unpredictability not only made groups more often victorious but also less wealthy. Macro-level changes in the natural and economic environment can be a root cause of out-group aggression and turn benign intergroup relations violent. This article is part of the theme issue 'Intergroup conflict across taxa'.

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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:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:2022
Deposited On:08 Nov 2022 17:00
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:39
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8436
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2021.0147
PubMed ID:35369744
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)