Why Can't We Be Friends? The Failure of Group-Affirmation as a Means of Buffering External Threat




Mohammed, Zainab A.

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An issue of growing concern in the US is group-polarization. One means of reducing external threat is the use of a values affirmation. Both self- and group-affirmation have been used as a means of intervention to alleviate out-group threat but the latter has not been as successful. The current research aims to unearth the reasons why group-affirmations have had mixed results in the past by testing two hypotheses. First, the primacy hypothesis posits that self-affirmations enhance aspects of the self that are more primary than group-affirmations, thus providing more potency. Second, the alternate domain hypothesis argues that self-affirmations work better than group affirmations because it easier to affirm aspects of the personal self (vs. the collective self) that are separate from the threatened aspect of the self, and thus serve as a resource. Both of these hypotheses have implications for linguistic patterns of affirmations and were generated partly by Study 1 that examined the writings of previous affirmations gathered by our lab and found significant differences in pronoun use. Study 2 aimed to explore the primacy hypothesis by utilizing previous methodology by Gaertner et al. (2012) in which a mixed design was used to discover where participants that both self- and group-affirm real self lies (individual vs collective). Finally, study 3 provides potential comparative tests of the two hypotheses against one another, but found little evidence to fully support one over the other. Both study 2 and study 3 further examined linguistic patterns for cues regarding their differential effects.


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alternate domain, group affirmation, hierarchy of the self, language, primacy, self affirmation