Motive attribution asymmetry for love vs. hate drives intractable conflict

Adam Waytz*, Liane L. Young, Jeremy Ginges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Five studies across cultures involving 661 American Democrats and Republicans, 995 Israelis, and 1,266 Palestinians provide previously unidentified evidence of a fundamental bias,whatwe term the "motive attribution asymmetry," driving seemingly intractable human conflict. These studies show that in political and ethnoreligious intergroup conflict, adversaries tend to attribute their own group's aggression to ingroup love more than outgroup hate and to attribute their outgroup's aggression to outgroup hate more than ingroup love. Study 1 demonstrates that American Democrats and Republicans attribute their own party's involvement in conflict to ingroup love more than outgroup hate but attribute the opposing party's involvement to outgroup hate more than ingroup love. Studies 2 and 3 demonstrate this biased attributional pattern for Israelis and Palestinians evaluating their own group and the opposing group's involvement in the current regional conflict. Study 4 demonstrates in an Israeli population that this bias increases beliefs and intentions associated with conflict intractability toward Palestinians. Finally, study 5 demonstrates, in the context of American political conflict, that offering Democrats and Republicans financial incentives for accuracy in evaluating the opposing party canmitigate this bias and its consequences.Although people find it difficult to explain their adversaries' actions in terms of love and affiliation, we suggest that recognizing this attributional bias and howto reduce it can contribute to reducing human conflict on a global scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15687-15692
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 4 2014


  • Attribution
  • Cognitive bias
  • Ingroup love
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Outgroup hate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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