Affective group identification mediates the relationship between group type and cooperative responses to a social dilemma

Document Type

Poster Session

Presentation Date


Conference Name

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Conference Location

Austin, TX

Peer Review



Traditional theories of social dilemmas assume that people’s behavior is individualistic, selfish, and rational in the sense of maximizing personal outcomes. More recent group identification theories suggest that people often sacrifice personal gains to benefit a larger group. However, tests of the group identification hypothesis have yielded uneven results. We hypothesized that the affective dimension of group identity, relative to evaluative or cognitive dimensions, would reliably predict cooperation and account for different rates of cooperation produced by different types of groups. Twelve six-person social dilemmas were conducted (N=72), evenly spread across three group types: Contrived membership (all six classified as “synthetic perceivers”), academic major (all same major), or campus club (all belonged to same club). In each experimental session, participants were seated in isolated cubicles and each given $5. Each then had to privately and irrevocably decide to either GIVE his/her money or KEEP it for his/herself. It was made clear that any money given would not be returned, but if $20 or more was collected in total all six would receive a $10 bonus (whether or not they personally gave). Several measures were administered, including group identification and rational calculation estimates. While both of these factors were significant and independent predictors of giving overall, cooperation was significantly greater in the club condition than in the contrived condition, and this difference was significantly mediated by the affective dimension of group identity. Suggestions for the theoretical integration of social identity and rational calculation approaches are discussed.



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