Intergroup sensitivity effect and the war in Iraq: A case of attitudes and intentions diverging


School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, 4072, Australia


People are more defensive in the face of group-directed criticism when it stems from an outgroup member than when it stems from an ingroup member (the intergroup sensitivity effect). The current experiment was designed to demonstrate (a) whether the effect could be replicated when criticisms relate to a single, hotly contested current event, in this case the war in Iraq, and (b) whether the group membership of the critic influences behavioural intentions. Australian participants (N = 83) were exposed to criticism of Australians for not showing enough support for the war in Iraq. These criticisms were attributed either to another Australian (an ingroup critic) or an American (an outgroup critic). Consistent with the intergroup sensitivity effect, participants reported less negativity when the comment stemmed from an ingroup relative to an outgroup critic. Interestingly, however, outgroup criticisms caused participants to have weaker intentions to protest against the war than did ingroup criticisms. Results are discussed with reference to the broader literature on power and strategic intergroup behaviours.