Partisanship and the status quo



Individuals advancing the status quo in partisan conflict are more favorably evaluated compared to individuals advocating change (Keltner & Robinson, 1997). We explore two aspects of this intergroup bias: first, a target effect whereby groups who aim to change the status quo are judged more negatively than those favoring its preservation; and second, an observer effect whereby those favoring the status quo define the conflict in terms of the status quo versus change to a greater extent than those advancing change. We sought to extend our understanding of these partisan effects via a minimal-group induction of partisanship in the laboratory. In our study, participants viewed a negotiation between two group representatives, where half of the groups either defended the status quo or advocated change. As predicted, partisan observers: (a) favored the negotiator advancing the status quo (consistent with the target effect), (b) were more likely to attribute actions to the negotiators as stemming from their status quo versus change preference when they themselves were aligned with the status quo rather than change (consistent with the observer effect), and (c) when aligned with the status quo, expected a more effortful conflict than those seeking change (consistent with the observer effect). It is suggested that these biased perceptions are basic to intergroup, partisan processes involving change. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.