The possessive self as a barrier to conflict resolution: Effects of mere ownership, process accountability, and self-concept clarity on competitive cognitions and behavior.
The authors propose that people have difficulty managing conflict because they quickly develop ownership of arguments and positions they use in the dispute, that these arguments and positions become part of their (extended) self-concept, and that any opposition or counterargumentation therefore becomes an ego-threat. Four studies reveal that individuals value arguments and beliefs more when these are associated with the self and that anticipated or real opposition triggers ego-defensive cognition and behavior, including competitive communication, retaliatory responses, negative perceptions of the partner, and attitude polarization. These effects were weaker when epistemic needs were raised through process accountability or when individuals had high rather than low self-concept clarity. The authors conclude that because people develop ownership of arguments and make these part of their self-concept, conflict is difficult to manage and bound to escalate. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved).