Strong hearts, open minds: Cardiovascular challenge predicts non-defensive responses to ingroup-perpetrated violence

Quinnehtukqut McLamore*, Bernhard Leidner, Jiyoung Park, Gilad Hirschberger, Mengyao Li, David Reinhard, Kendall Beals

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Reminders of ingroup-perpetrated violence represent a psychological stressor that some people respond to defensively (e.g., justifying the violence), while others react non-defensively (e.g., accepting collective responsibility). To explain these divergent responses, we applied the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat to the context of intergroup conflict. Participants (N = 130) read about either an ingroup (American) or outgroup (Australian) soldier torturing an Iranian captive. We recorded cardiovascular responses while participants video-recorded introductions to an Iranian confederate who they believed they would meet. In the ingroup (but not the outgroup) condition, cardiovascular responses of challenge (relative to threat) were associated with less psychological defensiveness of ingroup-perpetrated violence and greater support for diplomacy towards its victims. Self-reported challenge/threat appraisals demonstrated no such relationships. These findings suggest that motivational states of challenge and threat can differentiate defensive and non-defensive responses, and that these motivational states may be better captured with physiological rather than self-report measures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108054
JournalBiological Psychology
Early online date02 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research conducted in this brief report was made possible by funding through a joint grant though the National Science Foundation and the Binational Science Foundation ( NSF BCS-1628458 ; BSF 2016859 ). The method for this study followed the proposals outlined in this grant. Further, the authors wish to briefly acknowledge the work that undergraduate research assistants performed during data collection by administering the protocol to participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cardiovascular reactivity
  • Challenge and threat
  • Ingroup defensiveness
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Social identity
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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