Resolving selfish and spiteful interdependent conflict

Alexander J. Stewart*, Charlie Pilgrim, Nichola J. Raihani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Interdependence occurs when individuals have a stake in the success or failure of others, such that the outcomes experienced by one individual also generate costs or benefits for others. Discussion on this topic has typically focused on positive interdependence (where gains for one individual result in gains for another) and on the consequences for cooperation. However, interdependence can also be negative (where gains for one individual result in losses for another), which can spark conflict. In this article, we explain when negative interdependence is likely to arise and, crucially, the role played by (mis)perception in shaping an individual’s understanding of their interdependent relationships. We argue that, owing to the difficulty in accurately perceiving interdependence with others, individuals might often be mistaken about the stake they hold in each other’s outcomes, which can spark needless, resolvable forms of conflict. We then discuss when and how reducing misperceptions can help to resolve such conflicts. We argue that a key mechanism for resolving interdependent conflict, along with better sources of exogenous information, is to reduce reliance on heuristics such as stereotypes when assessing the nature of our interdependent relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20240295
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2024


  • Conflict
  • Cooperation
  • Interdependence
  • Perception
  • Spite


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