The effect of between-group communication on conflict resolution in the Assurance and Chicken team games

Gary Bornstein & Zohar Gilula

We studied conflict resolution in two types of intergroup conflicts modeled as team games, a game of Assurance where the groups’ incentive to compete is purely fear, and a game of Chicken where the groups’ incentive to compete is purely greed. The games were operationalized as competitions between two groups with three players in each group. The players discussed the game with other ingroup members, after which they met with the members of the outgroup for a between group discussion, and finally had a within-group discussion before deciding individually whether to participate in their group’s collective effort vis-a-vis the other group. We found that all groups playing the Assurance game managed to achieve the collectively efficient outcome of zero participation, whereas groups playing the Chicken game maintained a highly inefficient participation rate of 78%. We conclude that communication between groups is very effective in bringing about a peaceful resolution if the conflict is motivated by mutual fear and practically useless if the conflict is motivated by mutual greed.

October, 2002
Published in: 
Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (2003), 326-339