Emotional reactions to harmful intergroup behavior

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Abstract

In this paper, we examined reactions to situations in which, although one is not personally involved, one could see oneself connected to either the perpetrators or the victims of unfair behavior. We manipulated participants' similarity and measured their identification to either one of two groups which participants later learned was the victim or the perpetrator of harmful behavior. As predicted, making salient similarities to the victims lead participants to: 1) appraise the perpetrator's behavior as more unfair; 2) experience more anger; and 3) be more likely to take action against it and less prone to show support for it as a function of their level of identification with their salient ingroup. In sharp contrast, focusing participants' attention on their similarities to the perpetrators reversed this pattern of findings: Compared to high identifiers, low identifiers appraised the behavior as more unfair than high identifiers, which made them feel angry (and guilty) and less likely to show support for the perpetrator's behavior. The data also provide strong support for a mediational model in which appraisal of the situation colors the emotional reaction which in turn orients action tendencies. We discuss the implications of our findings for the issue of group-based emotions. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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