Why being right is not enough: Predicting defensiveness in the face of group criticism

Hornsey, M. J. (2005) Why being right is not enough: Predicting defensiveness in the face of group criticism. European Review of Social Psychology, 16 9: 301-334. doi:10.1080/10463280500436040

Author Hornsey, M. J.
Title Why being right is not enough: Predicting defensiveness in the face of group criticism
Journal name European Review of Social Psychology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1046-3283
Publication date 2005-12
Year available 2005
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/10463280500436040
Volume 16
Issue 9
Start page 301
End page 334
Total pages 34
Editor Hewstone, Miles
Stroebe, Wolfgan
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Psychology Press
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subject 380105 Social and Community Psychology
Abstract Criticism of a group can be a catalyst for reform and positive change. Despite this, group-directed criticisms can sometimes face high levels of defensiveness, and can do so even if the comments have objective merit. In this article I review research on group-directed criticism and formulate a model designed to predict when and why people will express defensiveness in the face of criticisms of their group. I argue that, when deciding how to respond to group criticism, people weigh up three independent sets of considerations: (1) attributions about the motives and agenda of the critic ("why would they say that?"), (2) questions about whether the critic had obeyed identity-related rules in the timing and delivery of their criticism ("was it appropriate for them to say that?"), and (3) questions about whether it is in the long-term interests of the individual and the group for them to express support for the criticisms ("strategically, what is the best way for me to respond?"). Practical implications of the model for promoting positive and open communication within and between groups are discussed.
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