"What's the Cooperative Contingencies Model?" you ask.
Despite substantial declines in overtly prejudicial attitudes, massive disparities (e.g., in education, health, employment and justice) persist between groups. The CCM offers a partial account for how and why intergroup disparities and segregation endure despite positive shifts in intergroup attitudes. Life in human societies hinges on cooperation, but decisions to cooperate with others are often risky. The CCM posits that because groups facilitate cooperation, decision-makers often have an instrumental incentive to preferentially coordinate with ingroup (over outgroup) members. Importantly, this incentive operates independently from other contributors to bias (e.g., social identity, ideology) and thus exists even for egalitarians. The CCM further posits, however, that the incentive to preferentially coordinate with ingroup members is contingent on the full set of cooperative requirements (how much people need to cooperate) and cooperative affordances (mechanisms available to facilitate cooperation) perceived in current contexts.
Specifically, we hypothesize that decision-makers are more likely to preferentially rely on ingroup members in situations where cooperation is important for goal attainment. Importantly, however, strategic reliance on ingroups can be attenuated by the presence of alternate cooperative affordances, including social structures or institutions that facilitate cooperation between individuals (e.g., rule of law, third party punishers). Some early evidence for this prediction can be found here. Interpersonal relationships and reputations also represent cooperative affordances that can reduce intergroup bias when social networks include outgroup members. However, given that people are more likely to know and know about ingroup than outgroup members, these personalized affordances often tend to increase intergroup bias.
The CCM can be used to derive specific and real world hypotheses about when people will exhibit strategic intergroup biases and how they can be reduced. We predict, for example, that informational asymmetries and power differentials will tend to increase strategic biases. The model sheds light on the stubborn persistence of intergroup disparities in societies with increasingly egalitarian values, and promises to illuminate a variety of interesting issues, including:
- Why gangs are often racially segregated and wear highly visible gang colors or tattoos
- Why non-prejudiced people nevertheless laugh at or even tell racist jokes
- Why con artists and fraudsters are likely to selectively target ingroup members
- Why bias is likely to be greater in markets for used vs. new goods
- Why employees may often be more biased in their choice of an employer than employers are in their choice of employees
It's a model, and thus imperfect. Bits of it will be right, and other bits of it will undoubtedly be wrong. However, as George Box wrote, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." We have found this to be a useful model because it is directing our attention to novel questions and raising provocative hypotheses. We hope that others will find it similarly useful.