Rules of engagement: Reactions to internal and external criticism in public debate

Levi Adelman, Maykel Verkuyten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since 2014, the refugee crisis has launched a political shockwave across Europe, with consequences for the European Union, the Schengen Zone, and national politics. Within this context, we investigated how public statements about the refugee crisis are received. While debate and criticism are hallmarks of a democratic society, research demonstrates that people respond more negatively to criticism about their group from an outsider compared with an insider. But does this reflect a protective bias in favour of one's own group, or a more principled position against criticism from outsiders independently of one's own group membership? In three experimental studies, people apply the principle of preferring internal over external criticism, even to the point of penalizing in-group members who criticized outgroups. This preference for internal over external criticism is guided by perceptions that internal critics are more constructive and more expert than external critics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-424
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • intergroup sensitivity effect
  • group criticism
  • refugees
  • social identity


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