Group identity buffers the adverse consequences of collective failure

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Conference Location

Las Vegas, Nevada

Peer Review



In a social dilemma, each individual must choose a response that benefits the group as a whole (to cooperate) or one that maximizes personal benefits. If most people focus on personal gains, the group suffers a deficit. Studies of teamwork suggest that collective failure reduces team morale and increases selfish actions. Thus, members of failed groups should be less cooperative in response to a social dilemma than members of successful groups. However, from social identity theory, we predicted that a strong group identity would buffer the adverse consequences of group failure. To test this moderation hypothesis, we employed a 2 (group identity: low or high) x 2 (group performance: failure or success) experimental design with 304 participants (76 four-person groups). After the manipulations, group members were isolated to complete measures of group identity, mood, and other constructs. They then responded to a standard social dilemma involving the distribution of 100 chips to a personal and group account. As predicted, there was a significant group identity x group performance interaction effect on amount contributed. Group identity had little effect on members of successful groups, but a large impact on those in failed groups. Collective failure reduced cooperation among members of low-identity groups, but not among high-identity groups. Additional analyses indicated that this effect was due primarily to group identity rather than mood or other potential mediators. In general, our findings support the social identity approach to social dilemmas and, more specifically, are consistent with the goal transformation hypothesis.


Social dilemmas, cooperation, social identity, group performance


Psychology | Social Psychology

This document is currently not available here.