The evolution of authoritarian processes: Fostering cooperation in large-scale groups

T. Kessler, Christopher Cohrs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Authoritarianism, comprising conventionalism, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression, is an important factor underlying prejudice and social discrimination and therefore is typically perceived as socially problematic. In contrast, our work examines adaptive features of authoritarianism. Evolutionary game theoretical considerations (e.g., biased social learning) point to authoritarian psychological processes that establish and foster group life (e.g., high levels of ingroup cooperation). First, the evolution of social learning (particularly conformist and prestige biases) leads to the establishment of local and distinct cultural groups (conventionalism). Second, local cultural rules solve coordination dilemmas by transforming these rules into normative standards against which others are evaluated (authoritarian submission). Third, the common rules within a particular culture or group are reinforced by a tendency to reward norm compliance and punish norm deviations (authoritarian aggression). Implications regarding the deduction of novel research questions as well as dealing with authoritarianism as a social problem are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Applied Psychology


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