Conflict can profoundly affect individuals and their groups. Oftentimes, conflict involves a clash between one side seeking change and increased gains through victory and the other side defending the status quo and protecting against loss and defeat. However, theory and empirical research largely neglected these conflicts between attackers and defenders, and the strategic, social, and psychological consequences of attack and defense remain poorly understood. To fill this void, we model (1) the clashing of attack and defense as games of strategy (...) and reveal that (2) attack benefits from mismatching its target's level of defense, whereas defense benefits from matching the attacker's competitiveness. This suggests that (3) attack recruits neuroendocrine pathways underlying behavioral activation and overconfidence, whereas defense invokes neural networks for behavioral inhibition, vigilant scanning, and hostile attributions; and that (4) people invest less in attack than defense, and attack often fails. Finally, we propose that (5) in intergroup conflict, out-group attack needs institutional arrangements that motivate and coordinate collective action, whereas in-group defense benefits from endogenously emerging in-group identification. We discuss how games of attack and defense may have shaped human capacities for prosociality and aggression, and how third parties can regulate such conflicts and reduce their waste. (shrink)
Compared to approach motivation, avoidance motivation evokes vigilance, attention to detail, systematic information processing, and the recruitment of cognitive resources. From a conservation of energy perspective it follows that people would be reluctant to engage in the kind of effortful cognitive processing evoked by avoidance motivation, unless the benefits of expending this energy outweigh the costs. We put forward three empirically testable propositions concerning approach and avoidance motivation, investment of energy, and the consequences of such investments. Specifically, we propose that (...) compared to approach-motivated people, avoidance-motivated people (a) carefully select situations in which they exert such cognitive effort, (b) only perform well in the absence of distracters that occupy cognitive resources, and (c) become depleted after exerting such cognitive effort. (shrink)
Our target article modeled conflict within and between groups as an asymmetric game of strategy and developed a framework to explain the evolved neurobiological, psychological, and sociocultural mechanisms underlying attack and defense. Twenty-seven commentaries add insights from diverse disciplines, such as animal biology, evolutionary game theory, human neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and political science, that collectively extend and supplement this model in three ways. Here we draw attention to the superordinate structure of attack and defense, and its subordinate means to meet (...) the end of status quo maintenance versus change, and we discuss how variations in conflict structure and power disparities between antagonists can impact strategy selection and behavior during attack and defense; how the positions of attack and defense emerge endogenously and are subject to rhetoric and propaganda; and how psychological and economic interventions can transform attacker-defender conflicts into coordination games that allow mutual gains and dispute resolution. (shrink)
There is much to like in Bermúdez's analysis, yet it is incomplete and at times problematic for social decision making and, by extension, interpersonal conflict. Here I explain how four frames – gains, losses, me, we – operate in conjunction and how humans gravitate toward a “me–loss” frame that, without intervention, leads to a breakdown of cooperation and an arguably tragic funeral of the commons.