In two studies we investigated the impact of degree of collective failure in a public good dilemma (near miss vs. large miss) on group members' negative reactions (negative affect, attributions of responsibility for the failure, and intention to leave the group). The results show that upward counterfactual thinking has more impact on members' negative responses when experiencing a near miss rather than a large miss. In Experiment 1, the results show that in the case of a near miss (and not a large miss), negative affect and attributions of responsibility were higher when other-focused counterfactuals rather than self-focused counterfactuals were elicited. Negative affect was found to mediate the effect on attributions of responsibility. Experiment 2 replicates these findings on a wider range of negative responses and reveals that the effect of counterfactual thought on willingness to leave the group in the case of a near miss is mediated by attributions of responsibility.

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Keywords Counterfactuals, Exit, Near miss effect, Negative affect, Public good dilemmas
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Series ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Journal Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Note Article in press - dd November 2010
de Cremer, D, & van Dijk, E. (2011). On the near miss in public good dilemmas: How upward counterfactuals influence group stability when the group fails. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(1), 139–146. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.09.006