Strategic defensiveness: Public and private responses to group criticism

  • Hornsey M
  • Frederiks E
  • Smith J
 et al. 
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Abstract

This paper explores the strategic processes associated with responding to group criticism. In Experiment 1, Australians received criticism of their country from either an in-group or an out-group member. When participants believed their evaluations of the criticisms were private, they reported being more defensive when criticized by an out-group relative to an in-group member. However, this intergroup sensitivity effect disappeared on some measures when participants were led to believe their evaluations of the criticisms could be seen by an in-group audience. In Experiment 2, which focused on participants' identity as social science students, the attenuation of the intergroup sensitivity effect emerged only when the in-group audience was relatively high-status. Furthermore, in both experiments, increased reports of defensiveness in public only occurred in response to an in-group critic and not to an out-group critic. Theoretical and practical implications for intergroup and intragroup communication are discussed.

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