‘You can criticize because you care’: identity attachment, constructiveness, and the intergroup sensitivity effect



Criticism of one's group (e.g. nation, gender, or organization) is typically received in a less defensive way when it stems from another ingroup member than when it stems from an outsider (the intergroup sensitivity effect). We present two experiments demonstrating that this effect is driven not by group membership per se, but by the extent to which critics are perceived to be psychologically invested in the group they are criticizing. In Experiment 1 (N = 117), Australian participants were exposed to criticisms of their country from either other Australians (ingroup critics) or non-Australians (outgroup critics). Furthermore, the ingroup critics were described as having either strong or weak attachment to their Australian identity. Ingroup critics were only received more positively than outgroup critics when they appeared to have a psychological investment in the group. In Experiment 2 (N = 96) we show how outgroup critics (Asian-Australians) can overcome defensiveness among Anglo-Australians by locating themselves within a shared, superordinate identity (Australian). Implications for communication within and between groups are discussed. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.