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When Getting More Makes Groups Seem Worth Less: Negotiating a ‘Better’ Deal in Prisoner Swaps can Ironically Signal Low Self-Regard and Engender Disrespect, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology


Prisoner exchanges between groups in conflict are often a first step towards peace. As with bargaining more generally, groups presumably try to get the best deal possible. But when exchanging human lives, can getting ‘more’ make your group seem worth less?Building on research on signals of self-regard at the interpersonal level, we consider whether certain behaviors—even strategically beneficial ones—can diminish perceptions of the esteem in which a group holds itself, with consequences for the respect and treatment it is afforded.Across sixpreregistered experiments (total N= 5,060), we findthat groups that negotiate a ‘better deal’ (e.g., getting multiple prisoners back in return for releasing only one outgroup prisoner; negotiating down the‘price’ for retrieving a single prisoner) are ironically seen as placing lessvalue on themselves, and, as a consequence, are respectedless and prescribed worse treatment. We observe these resultsin real-world and in artificial contexts, and whetherperceivers belongto the outgroupin conflictor are neutral third-party observers.A seventh study, focused on the decision to pursue or eschew a risky rescue mission (with negative expected valueof lives saved) expands beyond the prisoner swap context, highlighting that our results are one manifestation of a general tendency for perceivers to intuit a group’s self-regard from its actions. Our work suggests that, when deciding between various courses of action, it would behoove groups to consider the ways in which their actions subtly communicate how highly they value themselves




Andrea Dittmann, Nour Kteily, Emile Bruneau

Date Published



Dittmann, Andrea, Nour Kteily, and Emile Bruneau. 2020. When Getting More Makes Groups Seem Worth Less: Negotiating a ‘Better’ Deal in Prisoner Swaps can Ironically Signal Low Self-Regard and Engender Disrespect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


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