Intergroup and Interindividual Resource Competition Escalating Into Conflict: The Elimination Option

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Abstract

This experiment addresses the situational influences and decision process that results in the elimination of an opposing group (or individual) during competition over a valued resource. Subjects were told they had done well or poorly on a trivia test, and then performed as individuals, or groups of similar-scoring members, in a multitrial competition against a group or individual with the opposite level of performance. At break points, subjects learned how they were doing relative to the competitor, and were given the chance to take action against the opponent, including elimination from the experiment. Results suggest that groups are faster to eliminate the opposition than are individuals, and that the advantaged (i.e., group/individual currently winning the competition) are more likely to eliminate the opposition than are the disadvantaged. This is consistent with previous theorizing and real-world situations of intergroup competition over valued resources that result in violence.

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