ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (8): 993-1003.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00993

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The intergroup sensitivity effect and its behavioral consequences: The influence of group identification

SONG Shijie1,2, ZUO Bin1,2, WEN Fangfang1,2(), TAN Xiao1   

  1. 1 School of Psychology, Center for Studies of Social Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
    2 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Ministry of Education, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
  • Received:2019-12-31 Published:2020-08-25 Online:2020-06-28
  • Contact: WEN Fangfang
  • Supported by:
    National Social Science Foundation Major Program(18ZDA331);Ministry of Education Major Philosophical Social Science Project(17JZD043)


The intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE) shows that people have more pronounced negative emotional responses and are less likely to respond with acceptance to criticism from outgroup members than to criticism from ingroup members. Although ISE has been confirmed in a variety of group contexts (e.g., country, religion, and gender), many issues still remain to be resolved. For instance, it is still unknown how social interaction may affect the strength of ISE and what its aftereffects may be. Therefore, the first aim of the current study was to assess the applicability of ISE in an inter-group interaction context and examine the effect of intra-individual group identification on ISE. The second aim of the current study was to explore the behavioral aftereffects of ISE and its emotional-behavioral mechanism.
Experiment 1A (N = 93) repeated the test of ISE in Chinese participants who identified with a specific college group. Experiment 1B (N = 114) examined the influence of negative group evaluations from different sources (an ingroup critic versus an outgroup critic) on emotion in the context of inter-group interaction with the minimal group. In experiment 2 (N = 137) we explored the influence of negative group evaluations from different sources (an ingroup critic versus an outgroup critic) on emotion by instructing participants to read their school’s negative evaluations on college BBS, and we also assessed their group identification. Experiment 3 (N = 138) further tested group-donation behavior as an indicator of positive intragroup behavior to examine the influence of group identification and sources of negative group evaluations (an ingroup critic versus an outgroup critic) on behavioral consequences, while the negative emotions may act as important intermediates in the relationship between the interaction and positive intragroup behavior.
The results showed the following: a) We replicated and extended the basic view of ISE and found negative evaluations from outgroup members can cause more intense negative emotional responses than similar evaluations from ingroup members, even within an inter-group interaction context. b) Group identification was found to play a moderate role in ISE: for high-group identification individuals, negative evaluation from outgroup members caused stronger negative emotional responses than from ingroup members, while for those low-group identification individuals, this effect was not significant. c) Group identification performed a mediated moderating role on the influence of different sources of negative group evaluations on negative emotion response and positive intragroup behavior: under high-group-identification condition, sources of negative group evaluations had an indirect positive effect on positive intragroup behavior via emotional responses, whereas under low-group-identification condition, emotional responses did not mediate the relationship between sources of evaluation and positive intragroup behavior.
In conclusion, the current work is the first study to explore the intergroup sensitivity effect in China. We examined the influence of negative group evaluation on individual emotion and behavior and its mechanism from the perspective of group identification. This study provides a new theoretical basis and empirical support for the individual’s psychological and behavioral response in the inter-group interaction context, and has important implications for future inter-group relationship research. Future research should further explore the dynamic relationship for the change of inter-group attitude and behavior caused by negative group evaluation and the influence of interactions of situational factors and intra-individual factors on intergroup sensitivity effect.

Key words: group interaction context, group identity, intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE), group identification, positive intragroup behavior