Outgroup Homogeneity Bias Causes Ingroup Favoritism

AbstractIngroup favoritism, the tendency to favor ingroup over outgroup, is often explained as a product of intergroup conflict, or correlations between group tags and behavior. Such accounts assume that group membership is meaningful, whereas human data show that ingroup favoritism occurs even when it confers no advantage and groups are transparently arbitrary. Another possibility is that ingroup favoritism arises due to perceptual biases like outgroup homogeneity, the tendency for humans to have greater difficulty distinguishing outgroup members than ingroup ones. We present a prisoner's dilemma model, where individuals use Bayesian inference to learn how likely others are to cooperate, and then act rationally to maximize expected utility. We show that, when such individuals exhibit outgroup homogeneity bias, ingroup favoritism between arbitrary groups arises through direct reciprocity. However, this outcome may be mitigated by: (1) raising the benefits of cooperation, (2) increasing population diversity, and (3) imposing a more restrictive social structure.


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