Group-Based Emotions as Antecedents and Consequences of Competitive Victimhood

Which collective emotions shape competitive victimhood claims?

Project Abstract

Our project focuses on the specific collective emotions involved in claiming competitive victimhood (CV). CV occurs when individuals attempt to establish that their group has suffered more than an adversarial group over the course of a conflict. Past research has shown that groups try to establish CV to avoid negative group emotions, maintain their moral image and gain support from other groups. Despite these seemingly positive functions, studies have also shown that groups use CV to justify aggressive behaviors, which in turn inhibit forgiveness and reconciliation. The purpose of our study is to investigate the collective emotions involved in this process. In 2013, we launched our first study through Amazon’s mTurk survey tool. We used experimental procedures with an online sample of Americans to examine CV claims in response to the U.S.' use of drone strikes in the Middle East. We found strong negative correlations between shame and guilt and CV claims, and shame appeared to partially explain the relationship between CV and support for future drone strike use. This summer (2014) we replicated the findings from our pilot study, solidifying a foundation for future research on CV and emotions by showing that these relationships were independent of general shame and guilt felt about the conflict in the Middle East.

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