Tag Archives: Power

Strategic advantages to helping international out-groups

U.S. aid workers load supplies for relief efforts in Japan

By Kevin R. Betts

The United States has played a supportive role in at least two major world events recently. In response to a natural disaster in Japan, U.S. officials sent monetary and human resources to aid in recovery efforts. In response to government-backed violence in Libya, U.S. officials helped initiate a no-fly zone to protect civilians. One thing that is interesting about these prosocial acts is that they both involve the U.S. helping an out-group. Taking away from limited  resources that might be devoted to local problems, the U.S. has voluntarily sought to help members of the international community. Why might the U.S. see value in helping these international out-groups at the expense of problems at home? Are the intentions of the U.S. government purely humanitarian, or might officials see a more strategic advantage to helping these international out-groups?

Research by van Leeuwen and Täuber (2008) suggests that helping an out-group also garnishes some benefits for the in-group. For one, the act of helping in and of itself is associated with power differentials which may reduce the recipient’s degree of autonomy. When the U.S. offered assistance to disaster-ravaged Japan and war-torn Libya, they placed these countries in a position of dependency on the U.S. Even if assistance is welcomed, it carries with it the implied notion that the U.S. is qualified and able to provide help where these countries cannot help themselves. Helping out-groups also renders the in-group a sense of meaningfulness and purpose to the degree that being able to help implies that the in-group is valued and needed. Providing assistance to Japan and Libya confirms the beliefs of many American citizens that their country holds a valuable position in the world such that other countries rely on their help. Third, out-group helping promotes a favorable image of the in-group in the eyes of beneficiary out-groups and other outside observers. Providing help to Japan and Libya alerts the international community that the U.S. promotes humanitarian values and goals.

Whether or not U.S. officials recognize all of these advantages to helping international out-groups is unclear. Nonetheless, the recent prosocial actions of the U.S. can be expected to sway the power differential in the favor of the U.S., promote a sense of meaningfulness and purpose among American citizens, and enhance the image of the U.S. abroad.

Read more:

Tsunami aid and relief: How you can help

Gunfire, explosions heard in Tripoli

van Leeuwen, E., & Täuber, S. (2008). The strategic side of out-group helping. In S. Stürmer, & M. Snyder (Eds.), The psychology of prosocial behavior (pp. 81-99). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

Protecting the powerful

By, Adam K. Fetterman
Minnesota representative Michelle Bachmann has had her share of questionable moments in the past. For example, she once referred to President Obama and his wife as “anti-American”. She also seems to side with the powerful. The most recent example of this comes in regards to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the lack of safety measures, BP has been expected to take responsibility and face the consequences of the disaster. While most people are concerned about the victims that have lost their livelihoods, Michelle Bachmann seems to be worried about BP and has warned that BP should be wary not to be “fleeced and ma[d]e chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest”. She went on to say “The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from.” These comments appear to indicate that Rep. Bachmann is more interested in protecting the oil company, than the people suffering from the spill.

System justification theory is a process in which individuals tend to justify the status quo, regardless of the fairness of the practices (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004). For example, one may defend unfair actions or even blame (Napier, Mandisodza, Andersen, & Jost, 2006) the less fortunate in order to maintain the view that the current system is fair and/or to maintain one’s own status. Therefore, perhaps Rep. Bachmann feels that BP needs protection because it may challenge the current power hierarchy. As mentioned in her second quote above, she feels President Obama “wants to get more power from” BP. It may also be that she is worried that if the government is too hard on BP that it will lead to significant change in the way the government regulates powerful companies. Or maybe her only worry is that this will result in “paying $9 for a gallon of gas“. Either way, it seems she is worried more about the perpetrators than the victims.

“Michele Bachmann Channels McCarthy: Obama “Very Anti-American,” Congressional Witch Hunt Needed” By, Sam Stein – Huffington Post

“Bachmann to BP: Don’t ‘be chumps’” By, David Weigel – Right Now – Washington Post

Jost et al. (2004). A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo. Political Psychology, 25, 881-919.

Napier et al. (2006). System Justification in Responding to the Poor and Displaced in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 6, 57-73.

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