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Abstract

The present research examines whether the emotional display (i.e. anger vs. guilt) of another group member affects people's decision-making in a public good dilemma. In two experiments we investigated whether the expressed emotion is particularly informative when communicated by a group member who is highly instrumental in reaching the provision point. A first experiment demonstrated that participants were more likely to exit the group when anger as opposed to guilt was communicated, but especially when the group member displaying the emotion was able to contribute many endowments to the public good. Expected justice (based on past inferences) in the group mediated this effect, suggesting that communicated anger signals more than guilt that the group will not set out to achieve fairness. In agreement with this, a second experiment showed that when it was not possible to exit the group, participants preferred to install a democratic leader more when a wealthy group member communicated anger as opposed to guilt. Additionally, this study provided experimental evidence that a communicated emotion is only used for subsequent decision-making when more explicit information (i.e. a promise to contribute) is absent. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.