The influence of social preferences and reputational concerns on intergroup behavior in gains and losses contexts

Jim A.C. Everett, Nadira S. Faber, Molly J. Crockett
Royal Society Open Science. 2(12), 150546

To what extent do people help ingroup members based on a social preference to improve ingroup members’ outcomes, versus strategic concerns about preserving their reputation within their group? And do these motives manifest differently when a prosocial behaviour occurs in the context of helping another gain a positive outcome (study 1), versus helping another to avoid losing a positive outcome (study 2)? In both contexts, we find that participants are more prosocial towards ingroup (versus outgroup members) and more prosocial when decisions are public (versus private) but find no interaction between group membership and either anonymity of the decision or expected economic value of helping. Therefore, consistent with a preference-based account of ingroup favouritism, people appear to prefer to help ingroup members more than outgroup members, regardless of whether helping can improve their reputation within their group. Moreover, this preference to help ingroup members appears to take the form of an intuitive social heuristic to help ingroup members, regardless of the economic incentives or possibility of reputation management. Theoretical and practical implications for the study of intergroup prosocial behaviour are discussed.