The Anatomy of Defensiveness in the Face of Group Criticism: Understanding the Causes of the Intergroup Sensitivity Effect

Sarah Esposo (2010). The Anatomy of Defensiveness in the Face of Group Criticism: Understanding the Causes of the Intergroup Sensitivity Effect PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Sarah Esposo
Thesis Title The Anatomy of Defensiveness in the Face of Group Criticism: Understanding the Causes of the Intergroup Sensitivity Effect
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Matthew Hornsey
Dr Winnifred Louis
Total pages 148
Total black and white pages 148
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary There are many situations that call for groups to listen to criticisms and recommendations for change from outsiders. However, the intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE)suggests that people are consistently more resistant to criticisms directed at their group when they come from someone outside the group rather than someone within the group. The ISE has traditionally been interpreted and explained through the lens of social identity theory. Group-directed criticism is more threatening to one’s sense of collective identity if it stems from outsiders (who are viewed with suspicion and mistrust) than insiders (who are perceived to have the best interests of the group at heart). However, recent research has found that bystanders, or those who do not belong to the criticised group, also respond more negatively to criticism from external rather than internal sources—a finding that questions the extent to which the ISE is driven by themes of identity, defensiveness and threat. In response to the current debate in the literature surrounding the causes of the ISE,the current programme of research aimed to examine the extent to which the ISE exhibited by insiders is driven by defensiveness and identity-related concerns. This research has significant theoretical implications for clarifying our understanding of the factors that shape responses to group criticism. Furthermore, it provides rich theoretical insight into the utility of traditional theories of group deviance and minority influence in predicting responses to ‘ambiguously threatening’ messages such as group criticism. On a practical level, the findings of this programme of research have valuable implications for the type of interventions that will be effective in promoting change within and between groups. By examining the causes of the ISE, the studies presented in this dissertation provide change agents with advice on the type of strategies that will be more or less effective when advocating change from inside and outside a group. I conducted six laboratory-based studies examining the ISE. In all studies, Australian participants received group-directed criticisms that came from either an ingroup member (i.e., an Australian) or an outgroup member (i.e., a foreigner). In Study 1 (N = 94), I investigate the extent to which the ISE is an outcome of reporting bias. Specifically, I used the bogus pipeline technique to examine the extent to which people’s self-reported attitudes toward group criticism correspond with their true attitudes about group criticism. Study 2 (N = 57) examines the role of social identity in moderating the ISE on intergroup outcome measures such as ingroup bias. Chapter 4 presents two studies investigating the ISE from the perspective of insiders (those who belong to the criticised group) and bystanders (those who do not belong to the criticised group). Study 3 (N = 96) compares how insiders and bystanders evaluate group criticism and Study 4 (N = 169) examines whether the underlying processes that drive the ISE are different for insiders and bystanders. Finally, Chapter 5 presents two studies that examine the extent to which the ISE is driven by defense-motivated cognitive processes. Study 5 (N = 188) examines the impact of message quality on the ISE and Study 6 (N = 109) examines the extent to which self-affirmation could reduce the ISE by enhancing open-minded cognitive elaboration of the message Across the six studies, the ISE emerged such that people were consistently more resistant to criticism that stemmed from outsiders than insiders. Throughout the studies, themes of identity, threat, and defensiveness played a central role in driving people’s responses to criticisms of their group. Collectively, the results revealed that the ISE is a genuine effect that results in heightened intergroup bias (but only among those who strongly identify with the group). Both insiders and bystanders exhibit the ISE, however insiders’ response to group criticism is driven more by perceptions of constructiveness than by perceptions of source expertise. Arming oneself with high levels of expertise or strong evidence for one’s arguments is not an effective strategy an outgroup critic can use to overcome defensiveness to their message. However, self-affirmation can be effective in reducing the ISE through encouraging more open-minded elaboration of the critical message. Drawing on the social identity account of the ISE, the current findings suggest that when advocating change from outside a group, it is more important for the critic to dissolve barriers of suspicion and mistrust than to build a strong case for the arguments. group criticism, intergroup sensitivity effect, social identity, persuasion, minority influence, group dissent, deviance, defensiveness
Keyword Group criticism
intergroup sensitivity effect
Social Identity
Minority Influence
Group dissent
Additional Notes n/a

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Created: Mon, 21 Mar 2011, 16:01:46 EST by Miss Sarah Esposo on behalf of Library - Information Access Service