Defending or Challenging the Status Quo: Position Effects on Biased Intergroup Perceptions


  • Emma A. Bäck
  • Torun Lindholm


The default ideological position is status quo maintaining, and challenging the status quo is associated with increased efforts and risks. Nonetheless, some people choose to challenge the status quo. Therefore, to challenge the status quo should imply a strong belief in one’s position as the correct one, and thus efforts may be undertaken to undermine the position of others. Study 1 (N = 311) showed that challengers undermined, by ascribing more externality and less rationality, the position of defenders to a larger extent than defenders did of challengers’ position. Studies 2 (N = 135) and 3 (N = 109) tested if these effects were driven by the implied minority status of the challenging position. Results revealed no effects of experimentally manipulated numerical status, but challengers were again more biased than defenders. Study 3 also revealed that challengers felt more negatively toward their opponents (possibly due to greater social identification with like-minded others), and these negative emotions in turn predicted biased attributions. Results are important as they add to the understanding of how intergroup conflict may arise, providing explanations for why challengers are less tolerant of others’ point of view.