Homo Oeconomicus

, Volume 34, Issue 2–3, pp 117–135 | Cite as

Intergroup Revenge: A Laboratory Experiment

  • David Hugh-Jones
  • Martin Alois LerochEmail author
Research Paper


Several everyday examples imply that humans reciprocate not only towards direct perpetrators, but also to entire groups, thereby potentially affecting innocent bystanders. We test the hypothesis that people are predisposed to reciprocate against groups. In a laboratory experiment, subjects who were helped or harmed by another player’s action reacted by helping or harming another member of that player’s group. This group reciprocity was only observed when one group was seen as unfairly advantaged. Thus, activation of group reciprocity may be a causal mechanism that links perceived injustice to intergroup conflict. We discuss the relevance of group reciprocity to political and economic phenomena including violence, discrimination and team competition.


Experiment Intergroup revenge Fairness Group identity 

JEL Classification

D03 D74 



This work was supported by British Academy Small Research Grant SG101553. We thank Astrid Buba, Vittoria Levati, Werner Güth, Eva Steiger, Johannes Weisser, Ro’i Zultan, David Reinstein, Ryan McKay, Eva van den Broek, Shaun Hargreaves Heap, Brian Lickel, Arthur Lupia, Tore Ellingsen, Lorenz Goette, Alicia Melis, Michelle Brock, Catherine Scacco, Rafael Hortalla-Vallve, Nadine Chlass, Matthew Braham and seminar participants at the Max Planck Institute of Economics, University of Hamburg, University of Warwick, King’s College London, University of East Anglia, NYU-CESS, IMEBE, ESA and THEEM for helpful comments; and the Max Planck Institute ESI group hiwis and administrative staff: Martin Beck, Nadine Erdmann, Adrian Liebtrau, Christian Williges, Christian Streubel, Claudia Zellmann and especially Christoph Göring.


  1. Abbink, K., and Herrmann, B. (2009). Pointless Vedettas. Accessed 10 July 2017.
  2. Alm, J., & Torgler, B. (2006). Cultural differences and tax morale in the United States and Europe. Journal of Economic Psychology, 27, 224–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arrow, K. J. (1972). Some mathematical models of race discrimination in the labor market. In H. P. Anthony (Ed.), Racial discrimination in economic life (pp. 187–203). Lexington (Mass.): Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  4. Aureli, F., Cozzolino, R., Cordischi, C., & Scucchi, S. (1992). Kin-Oriented Redirection among Japanese Macaques: An expression of a revenge system? Animal Behaviour, 44(2), 283–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ball, S., & Eckel, C. C. (1998). The Economic Value of Status. Journal of Socio-Economics, 27(4), 495–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauerlein, M. (2001). Negrophobia: A race riot in Atlanta, 1906. New York: Encounter Books.Google Scholar
  7. Bernhard, H., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2006). Parochial altruism in humans. Nature, 442(7105), 912–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bornhorst, F., Ichino, A., Kirchkamp, O., Schlag, K., & Winter, E. (2010). Similarities and differences when building trust: The role of cultures. Experimental Economics, 13(3), 260–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bornstein, G. (1992). The free-rider problem in intergroup conflicts over step-level and continuous public goods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(4), 597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bornstein, G. (2003). Intergroup conflict: individual, Group, And Collective Interests. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(2), 129–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brass, P. R. (1997). Theft of an idol: Text and context in the representation of collective violence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love and outgroup hate? Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 429–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cederman, L. E., Weidmann, N. B., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2011). Horizontal inequalities and Ethno-Nationalist Civil War: A global comparison. American Political Science Review, 105(3), 478–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chagnon, N. A. (1988). Life histories, blood revenge, and warfare in a tribal population. Science, 239(4843), 985–992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chen, R., & Chen, Y. (2011). The potential of social identity for equilibrium selection. American Economic Review, 101(6), 2562–2589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chen, Y., & Li, S. X. (2009). Group identity and social preferences. American Economic Review, 99(1), 431–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cherry, T. L., Frykblom, P., & Shogren, J. F. (2002). Hardnose the dictator. American Economic Review, 92(4), 1218–1221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Currarini, S., & Mengel, F. (2012). Identity, homophily and in-group bias. FEEM Working Paper 37.Google Scholar
  19. de Cremer, D., & van Vugt, M. (1999). Leadership in social dilemmas: The effects of group identification on collective actions to provide public goods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(4), 587–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dufwenberg, M., Gneezy, U., Güth, W., & Van Damme, E. (2001). Direct vs indirect reciprocity: An experiment. Homo Oeconomicus, 18, 19–30.Google Scholar
  21. Falk, A., Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2003). On the nature of fair behavior. Economic Inquiry, 41(1), 20–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Falk, A., & Fischbacher, U. (2006). A theory of reciprocity. Games and Economic Behavior, 54, 293–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fearon, J. D., & Laitin, D. D. (1996). Explaining interethnic cooperation. American Political Science Review, 90(4), 715–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2000). Cooperation and punishment in public goods experiments. American Economic Review, 90(4), 980–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fershtman, C., & Gneezy, U. (2001). Discrimination in a segmented society: An experimental approach. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(1), 351–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischbacher, U. (2007). z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments. Experimental Econics, 10(2), 171–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fischbacher, U., Gaechter, S., & F, E. (2001). Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Economics Letters, 71(3), 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., Anastasio, P. A., Bachman, B. A., & Rust, M. C. (1993). The common ingroup identity model: Recategorization and the reduction of intergroup bias. European Review of Social Psychology, 4(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gaertner, L., Iuzzini, J., & O’Mara, E. M. (2008). When rejection by one fosters aggression against many: Multiple-victim aggression as a consequence of social rejection and perceived groupness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 958–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Glaeser, E. L. (2005). The political economy of hatred. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120(1), 45–86.Google Scholar
  31. Goette, L., Huffman, D., & Meier, S. (2006). The Impact of group membership on cooperation and norm enforcement: Evidence using random assignment to real social groups. American Economic Review, 96(2), 212–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greiner, B. (2004). The Online Recruitment System ORSEE 2.0—A guide for the organization of experiments in economics.University of Cologne Working Papers Series in Economics, p. 10.Google Scholar
  33. Greiner, B., & Levatti, V. M. (2005). Indirect reciprocity in cyclical networks. An experimental study. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26, 711–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Guala, F. (2012). Reciprocity: Weak or strong? what punishment experiments do (and Do Not) demonstrate. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35(1), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Güth, W., Schmittberger, R., & Schwarze, B. (1982). An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 3(4), 367–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Habyarimana, J. P., Humphreys, M., Posner, D. N., & Weinstein, J. M. (2009). Coethnicity: Diversity and the dilemmas of collective action. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications.Google Scholar
  37. Hardin, R. (1995). One for all: The logic of group conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Hargreaves-Heap, S., & Zizzo, D. J. (2009). The value of groups. American Economic Review, 99(1), 295–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hoff, K., Kshetramade, M., & Fehr, E. (2011). Caste and punishment: The legacy of caste culture in norm enforcement. The Economic Journal, 121(556), F449–F475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Horowitz, D. N. (1985). Ethnic groups in conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. Horowitz, D. N. (2001). The deadly ethnic riot. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  42. Kaufman, S. J. (2001). Modern hatreds: The symbolic politics of ethnic war. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Keynes, J. M. (1922). The economic consequences of the peace. Los Angeles: IndoEuropean.Google Scholar
  44. Klein, J. G., & Ettensoe, R. (1999). Consumer animosity and consumer ethnocentrism. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 11(4), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Leong, S. M., Cote, J. A., Ang, S. H., Tan, S. J., Jung, A. K., Kau, Keng, et al. (2008). Understanding consumer animosity in an international crisis: Nature, antecedents, and consequences. Journal of International Business Studies, 39(6), 996–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lickel, B., Miller, N., Stenstrom, D. M., Denson, T. F., & Schmader, T. (2006). Vicarious retribution: The role of collective blame in intergroup aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 372–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mummendey, A., Simon, B., D, C., G, Melanie, Haeger, G., Kessler, S., et al. (1992). Categorization is not enough: Intergroup discrimination in negative outcome allocations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 28, 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rabin, M. (1993). Incorporating fairness into game theory and economics. American Economic Review, 83(5), 1281–1302.Google Scholar
  49. Shayo, M., & Zussman, A. (2011). Judicial ingroup bias in the shadow of terrorism. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(3), 1447–1484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., Jack White, B., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1961). The Robbers cave experiment: Intergroup conflict and cooperation. Scranton: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Stanca, L. (2009). Measuring indirect reciprocity: Whose back do we scratch? Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(2), 190–202.Google Scholar
  52. Stenstrom, D. M., Lickel, B., Denson, T. F., & Miller, N. (2008). The roles of ingroup identification and outgroup entitativity in intergroup retribution. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1570–1582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tambiah, S. J. (1996). Leveling crowds: Ethnonationalist conflicts and collective violence in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  54. Weisel, O., and Zultan, R. (2013). Social motives in intergroup conflict. Jena Economic Research Papers 2013-033.Google Scholar
  55. Zussman, A. (2012). Ethnic Discrimination: Lessons from the israeli online market for used cars. Working paper.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of East AngliaNorwichUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Center of Conflict ResolutionHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations