Effect of Perceived Environmental Conditions During Cooperation on Intergroup Attraction

Publication Year


Journal Article

Predicted that intergroup attraction would most likely increase when Ss felt the environmental conditions interfered with successful cooperation as opposed to fostering a successful effort. Two groups of Ss (256 undergraduates) competed for extra credit and then cooperated to achieve a pre-determined performance level. In half of the cases, Ss were told that the environmental conditions were ideal and should facilitate performance, and in the other cases, room conditions were poor and could be an inhibitor. Half the groups were told that their cooperative efforts were successful, while other groups learned that their joint efforts failed. Intergroup attraction increased when the cooperative efforts succeeded, regardless of environmental conditions. However, when these efforts failed, intergroup attraction increased only if Ss believed environmental conditions could have inhibited their performance. Ss were most critical of the room when cooperative efforts failed and they had been told the room might be an inhibitor. Significant correlations indicated that the more Ss disparaged the room, the more attracted they were to out-group members. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal of Personality & Social Psychology
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

The following is an excerpt of the intervention methodology. For more information, please see the full text of the article on the publisher's website or through your institution's library.


Subjects. The subjects were 256 [...] introductory psychology students. Mixed-sex groups of 6 to 10 subjects were run in each session. [...]

Procedure. At the beginning of the experiment, subjects gathered in a single room and were given 5-8 minutes to get acquainted with each other. They were then informed that the purpose of the experiment was to examine the effect of different work conditions on task performance. The first part of the experiment would involve competition. The subjects were then randomly divided into two equal-size groups and told that they would work on two tasks. The groups would be competing with each other, and the group whose performance was judged best by the experimenter would receive extra experimental credit at the end of the session.

At this point, the two groups were segregated into different rooms and given the first task; the groups were required to form a 2-4-sentence jingle [...]. After a 5-10- minute work period, the experimenter introduced the second task: an anagram task [...]. Following the work period, the experimenter returned and requested that subjects complete a questionnaire before beginning the second phase of the study. Subjects were asked to indicate how competitive they felt, how satisfied they were with their own group's performance, and how attracted they were to each of the subjects in the experiment.

For the second phase of the study, all subjects were placed together and told that they would now function as one group. The aim of this phase was to examine the performance of larger groups. The experimenter told the subjects that if their performance was better than a predetermined level, each subject would receive additional experimental credit. [...] At this point the room condition manipulation was exercised. In the ideal-room condition, the experimenter told subjects that the room had been specifically designed to facilitate group task performance [...]. In the poor-room condition, [...] subjects were told that the room might inhibit group performance [...]. In actuality, the room was the same for groups in both conditions.

The first task on which subjects worked was [...] was a human relations problem requiring subjects to assign trucks to five drivers. After they worked on this task for 8 minutes, the experimenter introduced the second task. The second task was an anagram task [...]. [...] The experimenter gathered the results and began comparing the group's performance with the predetermined "target levels". The second manipulation occurred at this point. In half the conditions [...], the experimenter informed the groups that their performance on both tasks had been satisfactory and that they would receive the extra credit. In the fail conditions, the experimenter told subjects that their performance had not reached the acceptable level and she could not give them the extra credit. The succeed-fail manipulation was randomly assigned to groups and was not based on their actual performance.

Following this manipulation, subjects were asked to complete another questionnaire, identical to the one completed after the first phase of the study. Again they rated their mood, evaluated their group's performance, and indicated their attraction to the other subjects. [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias