Effects of Resource Inequality and Reasons for the Inequality on Responses to a Social Dilemma Situation

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Source

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations





Inclusive pages

200 220


Three studies tested the hypotheses that inequality among group members, as well as specific reasons for inequality, would significantly influence strength of group identification and cooperative responses to a social dilemma. In Study 1, participants reacted to scenarios describing a public good social dilemma. For some scenarios there was an equal distribution of initial resources, while in others the distribution was unequal. As predicted, group identification led to more cooperation in the dilemma. Starting with more money tended to reduce group identification for females but to increase it for males. In Study 2, participants were faced with an actual one-trial public good social dilemma involving real money. In some conditions, participants began with endowments of different sizes, and the inequality was explained as either random or justified. As predicted, reasons for inequality as well as the fact of inequality had an impact on group identification which, in turn, influenced cooperation in the dilemma. Replicating the results of Study 1, different conditions tended to enhance group identification for women and men. Study 3 was a conceptual replication of Study 2, and resulted in similar findings. Overall, these results may have important implications for real-world dilemmas, where inequality among the parties is almost always a salient feature


group identification, inequality, social dilemma