Resistance to Group Criticism and Recommendations for Change: Lessons from the Intergroup Sensitivity Effect



This essay reviews research relating to criticism of groups. It is argued that, in order to successfully critique (and change) a group culture, it is not enough to be right. Rather, critics need to be sensitive to a range of variables wrapped up in who they are: their group memberships, their history, and the intergroup context. One example of this is the intergroup sensitivity effect, the phenomenon whereby criticisms that seem reasonable in the mouth of an insider are rejected when coming from an outsider. We discuss the intergroup sensitivity effect, the psychological mechanisms underpinning it, and the contextual factors that moderate it. On the basis of this review, we present a model that can be used to predict resistance (or open-mindedness) in the face of group-directed criticisms and recommendations for change. It is hoped that this model can open up new ways of thinking about group-mediated communication, and at the same time can provide specific, concrete and usable instruction for how to promote change within and between groups.