Identity Processes, Social Context, and the Formation of Social Solidarity in Groups
Posard, Marek Nathan
Lucas, Jeffrey W
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A proposed theory explains how actors rely on subtle features of social context when deciding whether to contribute resources to the group and punish their partners after they behave selfishly. The theory incorporates elements of identity control theory with social exchange theory. It proposes that features of social context shape the perceptions of actors in groups. These perceptions, in turn, affect their behaviors and the formation of social solidarity between group members. Three experiments test elements of the proposed theory by varying the context in which actors viewed themselves, their partners, and the overall goals of their groups. The instructions for study 1 told groups of actors that they either had cooperative or competitive personality types. Study 2 referred to the partners of actors as either collaborators or competitors. Study 3 told actors the goals of their groups were either defined by cooperation or competition. Each study assigned actors to the same group structure in which individuals completed a public goods game with opportunities to anonymously punish their partners. Results show that actors contributed more resources to their group, and spent fewer resources punishing their partners, when they viewed themselves or their partners as more cooperative than competitive. These behaviors, in turn, affected levels of trust, commitment, and cohesion that formed between group members. The context in which actors viewed the goals of their groups affected their contributions to these groups, but it did not significantly affect their punishment of partners. These patterns of behaviors also had negligible effects on social solidarity in groups. Thus, results from these experiments show that subtle features of the relational context (i.e. perceptions of self and partners) affect the means by which actors promote collective action in groups, shaping the formation of social solidarity between group members.