Respect and political disagreement: Can intergroup respect reduce the biased evaluation of outgroup arguments?
Respect and political disagreement: Can intergroup respect reduce the biased evaluation of outgroup arguments?
Silke EschertID 0
Bernd Simon 0
Rick K. Wilson, Rice University, UNITED
0 Institute of Psychology, Kiel University , Kiel , Germany
Past research indicates that in political debates the same arguments are judged very differently depending on the perceiver's own position on the issue, because positions on controversial issues are often tied to collective identities. In this article, we test the assumption that equality-based respect from an opposing opinion-based group can reduce such biases. Results confirmed that identification as an opponent or proponent of a contested issue was negatively related to evaluations of outgroup arguments (Study 1) and that this negative link was no longer significant when intergroup respect was experimentally induced (Study 2). Results support the notion that disagreements over political issues are intergroup conflicts, in which different socio-political groups struggle for recognition, and that approaches that protect collective identities and improve intergroup relations should be employed to de-escalate them.
Funding: This research was supported by
Deutsche Forschergemeinschaft (http://www.dfg.
de/) Grant SI 428/20-1 awarded to BS and by
Volkswagen Foundation (www.volkswagenstiftung.
de) Grant 87 389 awarded to Geert Keil and Ralf
Poscher. The latter funders had no role in study
design, data collection and analysis, decision to
publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
In debates over political disagreements, one central problem is the biased processing of
political arguments or other issue-related information. Social psychologists have long observed that
people tend to seek out information supporting their political opinions and tend to avoid
disconfirming information [
]. Once people are exposed to disconfirming information,
however, it is subjected to critical scrutiny and very likely judged as unconvincing, whereas
confirming information is accepted at face value [
]. Consequently, ambiguous or mixed
information tends to be interpreted in a way that confirms pre-existing opinions and an
exchange of arguments often does not serve to reduce conflict but instead leads to greater
]. Finding ways to reduce, or even remove, these biased evaluations may,
therefore, be crucial for constructive political discourse.
While these phenomena are most often researched on the level of individual opinions, it is
important to note that public disagreements over political issues are often best understood as
conflicts between different societal, ideological or opinion-based groups. A contested issue like
kosher butchering, for example, is typically not debated between individuals, but most likely
between members of certain religious groups on one side and proponents of animal rights
(i.e., an opinion-based group) on the other side.
Political disagreements as intergroup conflicts
In fact, a wealth of research shows that dynamics of intergroup conflict are present in political
disagreements. Especially in the US, where political polarization appears to be intense,
members of different political groups (i.e., Republicans and Democrats) display open animus and
discriminate against opposing partisans, to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on
]. Bliuc and her colleagues  could also show that both believers and sceptics of
climate change in the US identify and act as members of distinct groups. In this study, collective
action intentions (e.g., intentions to donate money or to attend political rallies) were predicted
by ingroup identification, anger at the opposing group, and collective efficacy; that is, collective
action in this political context was motivated by the same psychological variables as in other
intergroup contexts [
Further, the biased evaluation of opposing political arguments can also be explained by
intergroup processes. Identified group members are motivated to evaluate information
negatively that threatens their collective identities; even more so when they are strongly identified
]. Outgroup arguments may be threatening when they imply that the
ingroup?s convictions are false, inferior, or even morally objectionable (creating group esteem
]) or when they call the ingroup?s identity-defining opinions or values into question
(creating symbolic threat [
This was also shown by Nauroth and his colleagues [
]. In these studies, gamers in
Germany were confronted with scientific reports on the negative consequences of violent video
games. Nauroth and colleagues  found that identification with the group of gamers
predicted fundamentally negative evaluations of scientific reports demonstrating detrimental
effects of playing violent video games. Identification also predicted these biased evaluations
over and above individual-level predictors, such as attitude inconsistency or gaming habits.
Nauroth and colleagues [
] could further show that identification with the group of gamers
was associated with posting discrediting online comments on such scientific reports.
Moreover, the authors could show that these reactions could be alleviated when participants?
collective identity was buffered against threat. In this study [
], participants completed an anagram
solving task. Afterwards, in the collective affirmation condition, they received positive
groupbased feedback (i.e., feedback saying that gamers usually score high on these tests). For
collectively affirmed participants, stronger identification did no longer predict more discrediting
This research demonstrates that in order to build constructive political discourse
exchanging arguments will not suffice, but researchers and practitioners will instead need to focus on
the dynamics of intergroup conflict and on strategies known to reduce such conflicts [
the following, we will argue that explicitly treating political opponents with respect is such a
strategy. Intergroup respect has the potential to reduce intergroup bias and to improve
intergroup relations and, thus, also to facilitate a more constructive political debate.
Respect in intergroup contexts
To clarify the concept of respect, we draw on Honneth?s influential recognition theory [
Honneth theorized respect to be based primarily on equality recognition and recent empirical
findings support this claim [
]. Simon and Grabow  focused on the gay and lesbian
community in Germany and found that the experience of being respected in society primarily
reflected perceived recognition of gays and lesbians as equal members of society. In their
study, perceived respect from the Muslim community was also negatively related to
anti-Muslim attitudes among gay and lesbian participants and, thus, to improved intergroup relations.
This is consistent with research conducted by Huo and Molina [
] who found a negative
2 / 12
relationship between perceived societal respect and ingroup favoritism among different ethnic
groups in the US.
Huo and Molina [
] argued that respect can reduce ingroup favoritism and improve
intergroup relations because members of respected groups have less psychological need to show
ingroup favoritism as a means to defend their collective identity. The authors explain this
based on work on intragroup respect which suggests that respectful treatment communicates
the individual?s value to the group [
]. In an intergroup context, respectful treatment should
communicate the ingroup?s value to another group or to society at large and, hence, affirm the
ingroup?s standing and render ingroup favoritism unnecessary. In line with this, Simon and
] demonstrated that disapproved outgroups can be tolerated when they are
respected and when others feel respected by them.
However, the difference between equality-based respect and group affirmation (i.e., positive
achievement-based feedback [
]) or status affirmation [
] should be clarified. While other
studies have affirmed high achievement or high status (i.e., higher than for others), we treat
respect as the recognition of equal status. This is an important theoretical distinction and it
has practical implications, too. While recognizing the high or higher status of an opposing
group in a political debate might be difficult, recognizing equality should be comparably less
costly. When, for example, established democratic political parties are faced with populist or
radical right-wing parties, recognizing their achievements or their high status might be a lot
more costly (or even painful) than recognizing their democratic right to present their
arguments, to be heard out and to be taken seriously just like any other political party.
In summary, when public disagreements over political issues are understood as intergroup
conflicts, in which different socio-political groups struggle for recognition, it is reasonable to
assume that respectful treatment coming from an opposing group should serve to reduce (or
even remove) the biased evaluation of the opposing groups? arguments. Therefore, intergroup
respect could lay the foundation for a more constructive political discourse in the face of
The present research
To create a credible intergroup context we needed a contested issue, for which there would be
substantial numbers of both proponents and opponents in our student samples. A pretest was
conducted to find a suitable political issue. A correlational study (Study 1) was then conducted
to investigate if argument evaluation depended on participants? position on the issue and the
strength of their identification as either proponent or opponent. Based on previous research
], a negative link between ingroup identification and the evaluation of outgroup
arguments was expected (Hypothesis 1). Study 2 was designed to test the effect of experimentally
induced intergroup respect or disrespect on the evaluation of outgroup arguments. In
accordance to the findings of Nauroth and colleagues [
], we assumed that the negative link
between ingroup identification and the evaluation of outgroup arguments should be reduced
in the respectful condition (Hypothesis 2).
The Ethics Commission of the Medical Faculty of the Christian-Albrechts-Universita?t zu
Kiel determined the study to be exempt from the requirement for ethical review. However, all
studies were conducted in full accordance with the declaration of Helsinki, and with the ethical
guidelines of the German Association of Psychologists (DGPs) and the American
Psychological Association (APA). This includes?among others?obtaining informed consent, the right to
withdraw at any time, and data protection. Therefore, before starting the study, detailed
information regarding ethical guidelines were provided. Participants were informed that they could
easily withdraw from the study at any time by closing the internet browser (Pretest, Study 1)
3 / 12
or by leaving their cubicle (Study 2), that all their data would be analyzed anonymously and
that collected e-mail addresses would be saved in a separate file. Contact details of the first
author were provided in all questionnaires. Signed consent forms were collected in our
laboratory study (Study 2); in our online studies (Pretest, Study 1), participants ticked a box to
indicate that they understood the instructions and consented to participate in the study. No
deception was involved in the pretest or Study 1. In Study 2, participants were fully debriefed
about the experimental manipulation, in order to give them the chance to withdraw their
consent on that basis, which no one did.
A pretest (N = 92) was conducted to find a political issue that provoked sufficient disagreement
in student samples and for which importance and identification would vary among
participants. In a short questionnaire participants were asked to indicate their position on ten
different political issues that we assumed were relevant to students and also debated among
students. Participants were also asked to indicate how important their own position on the
issue was to them personally. The surveillance of social networks by security agencies was
identified as a suitable contested issue. Out of 92 participants 39 indicated that they were
proponents, 29 indicated that they were opponents and 11 were undecided (13 participants failed
to complete the items on this issue). Further, suitable variance was found for ratings of
personal importance (M = 4.77, SD = 1.39; rated on a 7-point Likert scale).
In Study 1, both proponents and opponents of the surveillance of social networks were
presented with pro and con arguments concerning this issue. Thus, the aim of Study 1 was to test
the assumption that individuals with different positions on the issue would evaluate the same
arguments differently and that these different evaluations also depended on the strength of
ingroup identification. A negative link between ingroup identification and the evaluation of
outgroup arguments was expected (Hypothesis 1).
Participants. One hundred and three undergraduate students from Kiel University (64
women, 38 men, 1 person who did not indicate their sex; Mage = 22.9 years, SD = 4.6 years,
range 18?45 years) participated in the study. The students were enrolled in various programs;
students of psychology were not invited to participate. Concerning their position on the issue,
65 participants stated that they were proponents and 38 participants stated that they were
opponents of surveillance. The study was conducted online; participants were contacted
through social network groups of their university. All participants could take part in a raffle
for book vouchers worth 25 Euro (approx. 27.7 USD).
Procedure and measures. Participants first read about the contested issue at hand. The
question read as follows: ?Should national security agencies have access to messages from
social networks?? Participants then stated their position on the issue and their degree of
identification as either opponent or proponent. Subsequently, all participants rated the strength of
18 pro and 18 con arguments. To avoid order effects, half of all proponents and half of all
opponents received pro arguments first, whereas the respective other half received con
Participants stated their position on the issue on a 10-point scale ranging from -5 strongly
against to +5 strongly in favor of security agencies having access to these messages. Ingroup
identification was assessed with three items adapted from the scale by Leach and colleagues
4 / 12
]. The items read as follows: (1) ?I see myself as a proponent / opponent?, (2) ?I feel a bond
with others, who also support / oppose surveillance? and (3) ?Being a proponent / opponent is
an important part of how I see myself?. Items were answered on a 7-point Likert scale ranging
from 1 do not agree at all to 7 fully agree. The scale was reliable with Cronbach?s ? = .70 for
proponents and Cronbach?s ? = .80 for opponents. Mean identification scores were close to
the scale midpoint for both proponents (M = 3.85, SD = 1.06) and opponents (M = 3.95,
SD = 1.58). While a similar number of men proposed / opposed surveillance (21 proponents,
17 opponents), more women proposed it (44 proponents, 20 opponents), although this
difference did not reach significance, ?2(1) = 1.88, p = .171. However, sex was correlated with
argument ratings, r = .29 (p = .003), with women rating arguments more favorably (M = 4.53,
SD = 0.61) than men (M = 4.14, SD = 0.41; t(98,60) = -3.89, p = .001, d = 0.76). Therefore, sex
was controlled in subsequent analyses.
Pro and con arguments were about 20 to 30 words long. A sample con argument read as
follows: ?Governments have no control over their intelligence services. Therefore, there will
always be misuse of data and a lack of transparency.? A sample pro argument was: ?Privacy is
important but the war on terror and criminal investigations are more important.? Argument
strength was rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 weak argument to 7 strong
argument. Argument ratings were reliable with Cronbach?s ? = .90 for pro arguments and
Cronbach?s ? = .88 for con arguments (for descriptive statistics see also Table A, in S1 Appendix).
A mixed-model ANOVA was conducted using SPSS linear mixed-models. Argument position
(pro vs. con) was included as a within-subjects-factor and participant position (proponent vs.
opponent) as a between-subjects factor. Ingroup identification was centered and used as a
No main effect of argument position could be observed, F(1,99) = 0.08, p = .784, ?p2 < .001,
that is, pro arguments were not generally perceived to be stronger than con arguments or vice
versa. There were no main effects for participant position (F(1,97.03) = 2.45, p = .121, ?p2 = .02)
or ingroup identification (F(1,97) = 0.35, p = .852, ?p2 = .003), either. More important, a
significant argument position by participant position interaction emerged, F(1,99) = 68.33, p < .001,
?p2 = .41, indicating that for proponents pro arguments (M = 4.81, SE = 0.21) were stronger
than con arguments (M = 3.66, SE = 0.22; p < .001), whereas for opponents pro arguments were
weaker (M = 3.52, SE = 0.22) than con arguments (M = 4.60, SD = 0.23; p < .001). However, this
two-way interaction was qualified by a significant argument position by participant position by
ingroup identification interaction, F(1,99) = 25.58, p < .001, ?p2 = .21. No other interaction was
significant (all ps > .46; see also Table B in S1 Appendix). To decompose this three-way
interaction, we ran our mixed-model ANOVA again for high and for low ingroup identification. To do
this, ingroup identification was re-centered at one standard deviation above and below the
mean (see also Table C and Table D in S1 Appendix). The analysis revealed that the argument
position by participant position interaction was significant for lower (F(1,99) = 5.67, p = .019,
?p2 = .05) and for higher ingroup identification (F(1,99) = 89.76, p < .001, ?p2 = .47). However,
the effect was clearly more pronounced for opponents and proponents with stronger ingroup
identification. Weakly identified opponents evaluated con arguments only marginally more
favorable (M = 4.34, SE = .27) than pro arguments (M = 3.83, SE = .26; p = .074) and for weakly
identified proponents there was no observable difference in their evaluation of pro and con
arguments (M = 4.43, SE = .24 versus M = 4.04, SE = .25; p = .124; see Fig 1, left panel). For
highly identified proponents, on the other hand, pro arguments (M = 5.19, SE = .25) were quite
clearly stronger than con arguments (M = 3.29, SE = .26; p < .001) and for highly identified
5 / 12
opponents con arguments were quite clearly stronger than pro arguments (M = 4.86, SE = .24
versus M = 3.22, SE = .23; p < .001; see Fig 1, right panel). A stronger ingroup identification was
also correlated with more negative strength ratings for outgroup arguments (r = -.33, p = .007
for proponents / con arguments and r = -.39, p = .017 for opponents / pro arguments) and with
more positive strength ratings for ingroup arguments (r = .39, p = .001 for proponents / pro
arguments and r = .33, p = .042 for opponents / con arguments).
Study 1 demonstrated that argument strength of pro and con arguments was not perceived as
different per se but that evaluation depended on participants? own position on the issue and
the strength of their identification with the ingroup. The greatest differences in the evaluation
of pro and con arguments was observed for strongly identified group members. Consistent
with previous literature, there was a negative bias against outgroup arguments (confirming
Hypothesis 1). In Study 2, we focused on these negative evaluations. Indicating a possible
limitation, several participants commented on the ambiguity in the question about security
agencies using ?messages? from social networks. They stated that they would not be opposed to
security agencies using public messages as long as private messages were not accessed. This
might also explain the surprisingly large number of proponents in Study 1. To address this, the
contested issue was clarified in Study 2.
In Study 2, outgroup (dis)respect was experimentally induced. As expected, in Study 1 we
found a negative link between ingroup identification and the perceived strength of the
respective outgroup?s arguments. In Study 2, we expected that this negative bias should be weakened
or even removed when respect was received from the outgroup (Hypothesis 2).
Participants and design. One hundred and forty-six undergraduate students from Kiel
University participated in the study. Nine participants stated that they were not active in
any social network. These participants were excluded from further analyses. The final
sample thus consisted of 137 students (68 women, 68 men, 1 person who did not indicate their
Fig 1. Perceived argument strength as a function of participant position, argument position and ingroup
identification (Study 1).
6 / 12
sex; Mage = 22.8 years, SD = 2.8 years, range 19?32 years). Out of these 137 participants, 56
self-identified as proponents and 81 as opponents of the surveillance of social networks.
Both opponents and proponents were randomly assigned to a high respect or low respect
experimental condition. Ingroup identification was measured and used as a continuous
Procedure. The alleged purpose of the study was to collect and discuss different
arguments concerning a controversial political issue. For each experimental session, up to eight
students were invited to the laboratory, where they were seated at individual computer
terminals in separate cubicles. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. As in Study 1,
participants first read about the contested issue (i.e., surveillance of social networks). To
resolve the ambiguity noted above, for Study 2 the contested issue was rephrased as follows:
?Should national security agencies have access to all messages from social networks (public
and private messages)??. Participants indicated their position on the issue on the same scale
that was used in Study 1 and were then asked to write down arguments in support of their
position. This was done to increase the credibility of the cover story that there would be a
discussion later. Next, ingroup identification was measured, also using the same items as in Study
1 (Cronbach?s ? = .74 for opponents and ? = .66 for proponents). Mean identification scores
were again close to the scale midpoint for both groups. However, opponents reported a higher
degree of identification (M = 4.28, SD = 1.14) than proponents (M = 3.81, SD = 1.08) in Study
2, t(135) = 2.40, p = .018, d = .42. In Study 2, a similar number of women proposed / opposed
surveillance (30 proponents, 38 opponents), whereas more men opposed it (26 proponents, 42
opponents), although, again, the difference was not significant, ?2(1) = 0.49, p = .486.
However, sex was again correlated with the dependent variable, r = .34 (p < .001). As in Study 1,
women rated arguments more favorably (M = 4.22, SD = 0.88) than men (M = 3.58, SD = 0.89;
t(134) = -4.24, p < .001, d = .73). Therefore, sex was again controlled in subsequent analyses.
Afterwards, participants read the respect manipulation, completed our manipulation
checks and rated the strength of only twelve outgroup arguments. Argument ratings were
reliable with Cronbach?s ? = .73 for pro arguments and Cronbach?s ? = .82 for con arguments. All
arguments were taken from the pool of arguments from Study 1. However, the number of
arguments had to be reduced to avoid a lengthy questionnaire. Finally, participants were fully
debriefed and received 5 ? (approx. 5.6 USD) for their participation.
To manipulate equality-based respect, participants were informed that, while they had been
working on another task, the members of the participant?s outgroup had allegedly indicated
their (dis)agreement with two statements concerning the intended treatment of the
participant?s ingroup. These two statements read as follows: ?the opinion of [ingroup] shall be
discussed equally in the upcoming group discussion? and ?the [ingroup] and their opinion shall
be taken seriously?. In the high respect condition, the pooled answers of the outgroup
members indicated agreement with these two statements, while in the low respect condition pooled
answers indicated disagreement with both statements. Similar manipulations were already
used effectively in past research [
As manipulation check, perceived equality recognition was measured both with regard to
the individual participant (?I feel treated equally?, ?I feel treated like a person of equal worth?)
and for the entire ingroup (?my group is taken seriously?, ?my group is treated equally?). This
was done for exploratory reasons. In past research, participants usually received individual
respect, not group-based respect. All items were answered on 7-point Likert scales ranging
from 1 do not agree at all to 7 fully agree. Both measures were reliable with Cronbach?s ? = .96
for individual treatment and with Cronbach?s ? = .95 for treatment of the group (for
descriptive statistics see also Table E, in S2 Appendix).
7 / 12
Manipulation checks. A two-way ANOVA was conducted with participant position
(proponent vs. opponent) and respect (low vs. high) as between-subjects factors. For individual
equality recognition a significant main effect emerged for the respect manipulation, F(1,133) =
235.25, p < .001, ?p2 = .64, indicating that perceived equality recognition was stronger in the
high respect condition (M = 5.92, SE = .13) than in the low respect condition (M = 3.07, SE =
.13). There was no effect of participant position, F(1,133) = 1.90, p = .171, ?p2 = .01, and no
significant respect x participant position interaction, F(1,133) = .003, p = .955, ?p2 < .001. Results were
almost the same for perceived group equality recognition. Participants in the high respect
condition felt that their group was recognized as equal (M = 5.90, SE = .13), more so than participants
in the low respect condition (M = 2.87, SE = .13), F(1,133) = 280.90, p < .001, ?p2 = .68. Again,
there was no significant effect of participant position, F(1,133) = 3.42, p = .067, ?p2 = .03 and no
significant interaction, F(1,133) < .001, p = .988, ?p2 < .001 (see also Table F, in S2 Appendix).
Argument ratings. Multiple linear regression was calculated to predict argument ratings
based on participant position, induced respect and ingroup identification. Ingroup
identification was centered and entered into the analysis as a continuous moderator as recommended
by Aiken and West [
]. Tests for multicollinearity indicated that a very low level of
multicollinearity was present (all VIFs < 1.22). None of the main effects were significant?neither for
participant position, B = .08, SE = .08, p = .289, nor for the respect manipulation, B = .03, SE =
.08, p = .707, nor for ingroup identification, B = -.02, SE = .07, p = .832. More important, as
hypothesized, a significant respect x ingroup identification interaction emerged, B = .18, SE =
.07, p = .016 (see Fig 2). No other interaction reached significance (all ps < .210; see also
Table G, in S2 Appendix). Simple slope analysis of the respect x ingroup identification
interaction revealed that, as hypothesized, ingroup identification was negatively related to the
perceived strength of outgroup arguments in the low respect condition, B = -.19, SE = .10, p =
.044. In the high respect condition, there was no significant relationship between ingroup
identification and perceived strength of outgroup arguments anymore; results actually hinted
at a trend in the opposite direction, B = .16, SE = .11, p = .144.
Study 2 demonstrated that the usually observed negative bias against outgroup arguments
disappeared when intergroup respect was experimentally induced. While there was a negative
link between ingroup identification and the evaluation of outgroup arguments when
participants had received disrespectful treatment by the outgroup, this link was not significant
anymore when participants had received respectful treatment by the outgroup (supporting
Hypthesis 2). Notably, this effect was not qualified by participant position. No main effect of
the respect manipulation was observed, either. However, we did not hypothesize that
arguments would generally receive more positive ratings under high respect. We hypothesized that
the negative bias should be reduced or even removed under high respect.
We started this article by pointing out the problematic role that the biased evaluation of
outgroup arguments may play in public debates on political disagreements. While deliberation
research (as conducted in the political sciences [
] would propose that an exchange of
arguments should lead to depolarization, social psychological research has repeatedly shown that
arguments from an outgroup source may be perceived as threatening if they contain negative
information about the ingroup (e.g., that the ingroup is wrong or inferior [
]). To protect a
8 / 12
Fig 2. Perceived strength of outgroup arguments as a function of the respect manipulation and participants?
ingroup identification. (Study 2).
threatened collective identity, those outgroup arguments are often avoided or judged as
]. As a result, an exchange of arguments may lead to greater polarization [
Prior research has already shown that higher identification with a group predicts more
negative evaluations of information that may threaten the ingroup [
]. The present
research replicates this finding in the context of political arguments. Moreover, the present
research demonstrates that a concept that was imported from intergroup research, namely
equality-based intergroup respect, may reduce or even remove this bias. Therefore, the present
research has practical implications for de-escalating political debates and there are important
theoretical implications as well.
Recent research has called for a change of perspective regarding public disagreements over
issues like climate change [
] or media violence [
]. Disagreements like this are typically
best explained as intergroup conflicts, in which collective identities may be threatened and in
which different groups fight for respected collective identities; that is, as politicized struggles for
recognition. Presenting scientific facts or exchanging arguments will not suffice to reach
compromise between highly identified partisans from opposing parties. Instead, to facilitate a less
defensive debate, procedures need to be employed that protect collective identities and improve
intergroup relations [
]. In this paper, we argued that intergroup respect should be a very
useful concept for these purposes. And we would also like to highlight that respect and
self-affirmation or collective affirmation are really not the same. While Nauroth and colleagues [
] have demonstrated comparable effects using achievement-based group
affirmation and group status affirmation, respectively, respect highlights equal treatment and equal
status not high or higher status; nor does it require liking or agreement with any position of the
other party, either [
]. Equality-based respect is unlikely to enhance group esteem and more
likely to serve a protective function. This is an important theoretical distinction. Further, the
9 / 12
present research supports the notion that recognizing equality is sufficient to pacify conflict and
that enhancement or recognizing superiority (e.g., better achievements than others) is
unnecessary. In this sense, we can also theorize that public disagreements are struggles for equality, not
superiority. And there are important practical implications as well. As Bendersky  already
noted classic self-affirmation (or achievement feedback) manipulations are not actually feasible
ways to de-escalate conflicts. In a real-world argument telling one conflict party to ?go affirm
yourself? (p. 164) is unrealistic and as we have noted above communicating high status might be
costly or even painful. Instead, it should be easier to communicate that the opposing party is
considered an equal conversation partner and that their arguments will be taken seriously. .
Despite the theoretical and practical relevance of the present research, some limitations to
the present studies need to be addressed as well. While the surveillance of social networks is a
controversial issue and motivated devaluation of outgroup arguments was observed, it is not
as much a political hot topic as, for example, the refugee crisis in Europe or reproductive rights
in the US. Also, surveillance may be less likely to be perceived as a moral issue. This might be
relevant because research on moral conviction has shown that aspects of procedural justice
seem to be less effective when attitudes are tied to moral convictions [
]. If intergroup
respect is effective also in conflicts that more directly involve moral conviction, is an
interesting question for future research.
Another topic of future research concerns the effect of intergroup respect on outgroup
attitudes in the context of social and political disagreement. Past research has also shown that it is
not only outgroup arguments that may be devaluated in the face of threatened collective
identities but that this may affect attitudes towards members of the outgroup as well. Attacks to a
group?s esteem may evoke greater perceived ingroup homogeneity, greater ingroup favoritism
and also greater ingroup-outgroup differentiation and outgroup derogation [
to deteriorating intergroup relations [
]. Since respect is related to positive intergroup
] and respect was found to facilitate the identification with a common ingroup
], respect could have a positive effect on outgroup attitudes in socio-political debates.
This is especially relevant because research in the apparently very polarized US context has
observed an increase in both the number of highly identified partisans and the social distance
between these opposing partisans through recent decades [
In summary, viewing debates on political disagreements from an intergroup perspective
greatly contributes to our understanding of the possible escalating or de-escalating processes
present in these debates [
]. This is not to say that in public disagreements people do not also
fight for their convictions or that conflict would disappear as soon as the groups involved
communicate respect for each other, but de-escalating conflict and reducing intergroup bias should
remove some barriers to constructive political discourse. The present research supports the
notion that removing such barriers should lead to less devaluation of what the opposing group
has to say and makes compromise more attainable and that, thus, equality-based respect
should be considered as a relevant construct in the literature on ideological or intergroup
conflict. We certainly hope that the present research will stimulate further research in this area.
S1 Appendix. Additional tables for results section of Study 1. In this pdf document results
for Study 1 are presented in tables.
S2 Appendix. Additional tables for results section of Study 2. In this pdf document results
for Study 2 are presented in tables.
10 / 12
We would like to thank our cooperation partners Geert Keil (Humboldt University of Berlin)
and Ralf Poscher (University of Freiburg) for making us part of their research project on
?Deep Disagreements?. We would also like to thank our lab assistants Vera Stra?burger,
Lennart Pletsch, Frederike Stucke and Marion Schumacher for their help with creating study
materials and with data collection. Further, we acknowledge financial support by federal state
Schleswig-Holstein within the funding program Open Access Publication Funds.
Conceptualization: Silke Eschert, Bernd Simon.
Formal analysis: Silke Eschert.
Funding acquisition: Bernd Simon.
Investigation: Silke Eschert.
Resources: Bernd Simon.
Writing ? original draft: Silke Eschert.
Writing ? review & editing: Bernd Simon.
11 / 12
1. Jonas E , Graupmann V , Fischer P , Greitemeyer T , Frey D . Schwarze Kassen, wei?e Westen? Konfirmatorische Informationssuche und -bewertung im Kontext der Parteispendenaffa?re der CDU . Zeitschrift fu?r Sozialpsychologie . 2003 ; 34 ( 1 ): 47 - 61 .
2. Taber CS , Lodge M. Motivated skepticism in the evaluation of political beliefs . Am J Pol Sci . 2006 ; 50 ( 3 ): 755 - 69 .
3. Liberman A , Chaiken S. Defensive processing of personally relevant health messages . Personal Soc Psychol Bull . 1992 ; 18 ( 6 ): 669 - 79 .
4. Lord CG , Ross L , Lepper MR . Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence . J Pers Soc Psychol . 1979 ; 37 ( 11 ): 2098 - 109 .
Wojcieszak M , Price V . Bridging the divide or intensifying the conflict? How disagreement affects strong predilections about sexual minorities . Polit Psychol . 2010 ; 31 ( 3 ): 315 - 39 .
6. Brandt MJ , Reyna C , Chambers JR , Crawford J , Wetherell G. The ideological-conflict hypothesis: Intolerance among both liberals and conservatives . Curr Dir Psychol Sci [Internet] . 2014 ; 23 ( 1 ): 27 - 34 . Available from: http://www.ssrn.com/abstract=2225989
7. Iyengar S , Westwood SJ . Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization. Am J Pol Sci . 2015 ; 59 ( 3 ): 690 - 707 .
8. Bliuc A-M , McGarty C , Thomas EF , Lala G , Berndsen M , Misajon R . Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities . Nat Clim Chang [Internet] . 2015 ; 5 : 226 - 9 . Available from: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nclimate2507
9. van Zomeren M , Postmes T , Spears R . Toward an Integrative Social Identity Model of Collective Action: A Quantitative Research Synthesis of Three Socio-Psychological Perspectives . Psychol Bull . 2008 ; 134 ( 4 ): 504 - 35 . https://doi.org/10.1037/ 0033 - 2909 . 134 .4.504 PMID: 18605818
10. De Hoog N . Processing of social identity threats: A defense motivation perspective . Soc Psychol (Gott) . 2013 ; 44 ( 6 ): 361 - 72 .
11. Branscombe NR , Ellemers N , Spears R , Doosje B. The context and content of social identity threat . In: Ellemers N , Spears R , Doosje B , editors. Social identity: Context , commitment, content. Oxford, UK: Blackwell; 1999 . p. 35 - 58 .
12. Stephan WG , Renfro CL . The role of threat in intergroup relations . In: Mackie DM , Smith ER , editors. From Prejudice to Intergroup Emotions: Differentiated Reactions to Social Groups. New York: Psychology Press; 2002 . p. 191 - 207 .
13. Stephan WG , Stephan CW . An integrated threat theory of prejudice . In: Oskamp S, editor. Reducing prejudice and discrimination . Mahwah, N.J. : Psychology Press; 2000 . p. 23 - 45 .
14. Nauroth P , Gollwitzer M , Bender J , Rothmund T. Gamers Against Science: The Case of the Violent Video Games Debate . Eur J Soc Psychol . 2014 ;(3): 104 - 16 .
15. Nauroth P , Gollwitzer M , Bender J , Rothmund T. Social identity threat motivates science-discrediting online comments . PLoS One [Internet] . 2015 ; 10 ( 2 ). Available from: http://dx.plos. org/10 .1371/journal. pone.0117476
16. Honneth A. The struggle for recognition: The moral grammar of social conflicts . Cambridge, UK: Polity Press; 1995 .
17. Simon B , Grabow H . To be respected and to respect: the challenge of mutual respect in intergroup relations . Br J Soc Psychol [Internet] . 2014 ; 53 : 39 - 53 . Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/24627991 https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12019 PMID: 24627991
18. Simon B , Grabow H , Bo?hme N. On the meaning of respect for sexual minorities: the case of gays and lesbians . Psychol Sex [Internet]. Routledge; 2015 ; 6 ( 4 ): 297 - 310 . Available from: http://www. tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19419899. 2014 .987683
19. Huo YJ , Molina LE . Is Pluralism a Viable Model of Diversity? The Benefits and Limits of Subgroup Respect . Gr Process Intergr Relations . 2006 ; 9 ( 3 ): 359 - 76 .
20. Smith HJ , Tyler TR . Choosing the right pond: The impact of group membership on self-esteem and group-oriented behavior . J Exp Soc Psychol . 1997 ; 33 ( 2 ): 146 - 70 .
21. Simon B , Schaefer CD . Tolerance as a function of disapproval and respect: The case of Muslims. Br J Soc Psychol . 2016 ; 55 ( 2 ): 375 - 83 . https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12137 PMID: 26670416
22. Simon B , Schaefer CD . Muslims' tolerance towards outgroups: Longitudinal evidence for the role of respect . Br J Soc Psychol . 2018 ; 57 ( 1 ): 240 - 9 . https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12213 PMID: 28815636
23. Bendersky C . Resolving ideological conflicts by affirming opponents' status: The Tea Party, Obamacare and the 2013 government shutdown . J Exp Soc Psychol . 2014 ; 53 : 163 - 168 .
24. Leach CW , Zomeren M , Zebel S , Vliek ML , Pennekamp SF , Doosje B , et al. Group-level self-definition and self-investment: a hierarchical (multicomponent) model of in-group identification . J Pers Soc Psychol [Internet] . 2008 ; 95 ( 1 ): 144 - 65 . Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ 0022 - 3514 . 95 .1.144 PMID: 18605857
25. Simon B , Mommert A , Renger D. Reaching across group boundaries: Respect from outgroup members facilitates recategorization as a common group . Br J Soc Psychol . 2015 ; 54 .
26. Aiken LS , West SG . Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions . Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications; 1991 .
27. Carpini MXD , Cook FL , Jacobs LR . Public deliberation, discursive participation, and citizen engagement: A review of the empirical literature . Annu Rev Polit Sci [Internet] . 2004 ; 7 ( 1 ): 315 - 44 . Available from: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev. polisci.7.121003.091630
28. Postmes T . Psychology: Climate change and group dynamics. Nat Clim Chang [Internet] . 2015 ; 5 ( 3 ): 195 - 6 . Available from: http://www.nature.com.ezproxy.canterbury.ac.nz/nclimate/journal/vaop/ ncurrent/full/nclimate2537.html%5Cnhttp://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nclimate2537
29. Skitka LJ , Houston DA. When Due Process Is of No Consequence: Moral Mandates and Presumed Defendant Guilt or Innocence . Soc Justice Res . 2001 ; 14 ( 3 ): 305 - 26 .
30. Skitka LJ , Morgan GS . The social and political implications of moral conviction . Polit Psychol . 2014 ; 35 ( SUPPL .1): 95 - 110 .
31. Branscombe NR , Wann DL . Collective self-esteem consequences of outgroup derogation when a valued social identity is on trial . Eur J Soc Psychol . 1994 ; 24 ( 6 ): 641 - 57 .
32. Rothgerber H . External intergroup threat as an antecedent to perceptions in in-group and out-group homogeneity . J Pers Soc Psychol . 1997 ; 73 ( 6 ): 1206 - 12 . PMID: 9418276
33. Tajfel H , Turner JC . The social identity theory of intergroup behavior . In: Worchel S, Austin WG , editors. Psychology of intergroup relations . 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: Nelson- Hall; 1986 . p. 7 - 24 .
34. Riek BM , Mania EW , Gaertner SL . Intergroup threat and outgroup attitudes: A meta-analytic review . Personal Soc Psychol Rev [Internet] . 2006 ; 10 ( 4 ): 336 - 53 . Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/ doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr1004_ 4
35. Iyengar S , Sood G , Lelkes Y . Affect, not ideology: A social identity perspective on polarization . Public Opin Q . 2012 ; 76 ( 3 ): 405 - 31 .
36. Mason L. ? I disrespectfully agree?: The differential effects of partisan sorting on social and issue polarization . Am J Pol Sci . 2015 ; 59 ( 1 ): 128 - 45 .
37. Simon B. A realistic view on disagreement: Roots, resolutions, and the trauma of the scientist . Theory Psychol . Forthcoming.