United we win, divided we fail? Effects of cognitive merger representations and performance feedback on merging groups



Research has shown that cognitive representations of mergers influence intergroup evaluations. This paper extends this research by studying how cognitive representations of mergers (one group, dual identity, and two groups) interact with performance feedback (success and failure) to affect intergroup evaluations. Two competing hypotheses were tested, which made different predictions in case of superordinate group salience combined with subgroup salience after merger failure: The subgroup-salience-hypothesis predicts that subgroup salience during a merger generally results in pre-merger ingroup bias toward the pre-merger outgroup (i.e., two groups and dual identity). The superordinate- salience-hypothesis predicts that subgroup salience only results in pre-merger ingroup bias if superordinate group salience is low (i.e., two groups). Both hypotheses predict low levels of ingroup bias after merger success. Study 1 confirmed the second hypothesis using a 3 (merger representation: one group, dual identity, and two groups) × 2 (merger feedback: failure and success) design with interacting groups. Study 2 replicated the results in an adapted minimal group paradigm. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.