Warm or competent? Improving intergroup relations by addressing threatened identities of advantaged and disadvantaged groups


Correspondence to: Nurit Shnabel, Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.

E-mail: shnabeln@post.tau.ac.il


Applying the Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation to contexts of group disparity, two studies examined how messages from outgroup representatives that affirmed the warmth or competence of advantaged or disadvantaged groups influenced their members' intergroup attitudes. Study 1 involved natural groups differing in status; Study 2 experimentally manipulated status. In both studies, advantaged-group members responded more favorably, reporting more positive outgroup attitudes and willingness to change the status quo toward equality, to messages reassuring their group's warmth. Disadvantaged-group members responded more favorably to messages affirming their group's competence. Study 2 further demonstrated that the effectiveness of reassuring a disadvantaged group's competence stemmed from restoring its threatened dimension of identity, irrespective of a change of the status quo. In line with Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), these results indicate that beyond the competition over tangible resources, groups are concerned with restoring threatened dimensions of their identities. Exchanging messages that remove identity-related threats may promote not only positive intergroup attitudes but also greater willingness to act collectively for intergroup equality. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.