When Unfair Procedures Increase Group-Serving Behavior

Abstract

Greater group identification and higher levels of procedural justice typically work together to encourage group members to engage in group-serving cooperative behavior. However, when people who already identify with a group receive information indicating that the group is procedurally unjust, their motivation to engage in groupserving behavior may increase. This article reports two studies in which college students’ identification with their university was measured and information about the procedural justice of the university was manipulated. Study 1 used an explicit measure of group identification and a deliberative measure of group-serving behavior. Study 2 used an implicit measure of group identification and both deliberative and spontaneous measures of group-serving behavior. The findings of both studies support the hypothesis that among people who are highly identified with a group, learning about the group’s injustice leads to shortterm increases in group-serving behavior. Procedural justice and group identification often work in tandem to promote group-serving behavior. People help a procedurally fair group because procedural justice of a group encourages individuals to identify themselves with that group, and people help a group in which their identity is intertwined because the group’s success reflects well on the self (see De Cremer & Tyler, 2005). However, what happens when group identification and procedural-justice information come in conflict? The studies reported here address one such situation, in which people who already identify with a group receive information suggesting that the group is procedurally unjust. We hypothesized that among people who are highly identified with a group, knowledge of the group’s procedural injustice might promote group-serving behavior. Why might this happen? Research has shown that group members will allocate more resources to their group than to themselves when the group especially needs help (Brann & Foddy, 1987), particularly when there is no chance to change groups (i.e., group membership is impermeable; Ellemers, Wilke, & Van Knippenberg, 1993). In addition, people want their groups to be procedurally fair, because being proud of a group’s attributes allows group members to feel good about themselves (Blader & Tyler, 2003; Tyler & Blader, 2000). Thus, evidence of group unfairness is a sign of shortcoming, indicating that the group needs help. Given that identity-relevant shortcomings often serve as motivation for increased effort, at the group level as well as the individual level (Ledgerwood, Liviatan, & Carnevale, 2007; Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1981), we hypothesized that evidence of a group’s unfairness will motivate helping behavior among people who are highly identified with that group, because they have merged their sense of self with the group. How can people repair their group? Engaging in behavior that helps other group members or helps the group as a whole is one way to try to improve one’s group. This group-serving behavior may make the group fairer, because members who have resources (time, skills) will transfer these resources to people in need. Moreover, such behavior may also make the group better, because its members will become generally better off. In either case, engaging in group-serving behavior offers members a way to invest extra effort in response to their group’s shortcoming. The studies reported here were conducted in a sample of university students for whom group membership is relatively impermeable. These students have a history with their university, have given money to it, often live in university housing, visit university facilities frequently, and interact with fellow students, professors, and administrative personnel on a daily basis. Group membership is especially impermeable for those who strongly identify themselves with the university community; those low in identification can more easily remove their sense of self, if not their physical selves, from the group. Thus, we measured participants’ group identification and presented them with information indicating that their university was either procedurally fair or procedurally unfair. Subsequently, we offered participants a chance to participate in group-serving behavior. We hypothesized that those who identified highly with the university would Address correspondence to Heather Barry, New York University, Department of Psychology, 6 Washington Place, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10003, e-mail: heather.barry@nyu.edu. PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE 1026 Volume 20—Number 8 Copyright r 2009 Association for Psychological Science react to the procedural-justice information by performing more (or expressing more interest in) group-serving behavior when the group was unfair than when it was fair.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Barry2009WhenUP, title={When Unfair Procedures Increase Group-Serving Behavior}, author={Heather Barry and Tom Tyler}, year={2009} }