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Pressured to Attack: How Carrying-Capacity Stress Creates and Shapes Intergroup Conflict

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "ATTACK" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
address: RAPENBURG 70
city: LEIDEN
postcode: 2311 EZ

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Netherlands [NL]
 Total cost 2˙490˙382 €
 EC max contribution 2˙490˙382 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2017-ADG
 Funding Scheme ERC-ADG
 Starting year 2018
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2018-08-01   to  2023-07-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    UNIVERSITEIT LEIDEN NL (LEIDEN) coordinator 2˙490˙382.00


 Project objective

Throughout history, what has been causing tremendous suffering is groups of people fighting each other. While behavioral science research has advanced our understanding of such intergroup conflict, it has exclusively focused on micro-level processes within and between groups at conflict. Disciplines that employ a more historical perspective like climate studies or political geography report that macro-level pressures due to changes in climate or economic scarcity can go along with social unrest and wars. How do these macro-level pressures relate to micro-level processes? Do they both occur independently, or do macro-level pressures trigger micro-level processes that cause intergroup conflict? And if so, which micro-level processes are triggered, and how?

With unavoidable signs of climate change and increasing resource scarcities, answers to these questions are urgently needed. Here I propose carrying-capacity stress (CCS) as the missing link between macro-level pressures and micro-level processes. A group experiences CCS when its resources do not suffice to maintain its functionality. CCS is a function of macro-level pressures and creates intergroup conflict because it impacts micro-level motivation to contribute to one’s group’s fighting capacity and shapes the coordination of individual contributions to out-group aggression through emergent norms, communication and leadership.

To test these propositions I develop a parametric model of CCS that is amenable to measurement and experimentation, and use techniques used in my work on conflict and cooperation: Meta-analyses and time-series analysis of macro-level historical data; experiments on intergroup conflict; and measurement of neuro-hormonal correlates of cooperation and conflict. In combination, this project provides novel multi-level conflict theory that integrates macro-level discoveries in climate research and political geography with micro-level processes uncovered in the biobehavioral sciences


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Jörg Gross, Carsten K. W. De Dreu
The rise and fall of cooperation through reputation and group polarization
published pages: , ISSN: 2041-1723, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08727-8
Nature Communications 10/1 2020-04-25
2019 Jörg Gross, Carsten K.W. De Dreu
Individual solutions to shared problems create a modern tragedy of the commons
published pages: eaau7296, ISSN: 2375-2548, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau7296
Science Advances 5/4 2020-04-25
2019 Carsten K. W. De Dreu, Jörg Gross
Asymmetric conflict: Structures, strategies, and settlement
published pages: , ISSN: 0140-525X, DOI: 10.1017/s0140525x1900116x
Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42 2020-04-25
2019 Carsten K. W. De Dreu, Jörg Gross
Revisiting the form and function of conflict: Neurobiological, psychological, and cultural mechanisms for attack and defense within and between groups
published pages: , ISSN: 0140-525X, DOI: 10.1017/s0140525x18002170
Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42 2020-04-25
2020 Eric van Dijk, Carsten KW De Dreu, Jörg Gross
Power in economic games
published pages: 100-104, ISSN: 2352-250X, DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.07.019
Current Opinion in Psychology 33 2020-04-25
2019 Carsten K. W. De Dreu, Mauro Giacomantonio, Michael R. Giffin, Giovanni Vecchiato
Psychological constraints on aggressive predation in economic contests.
published pages: 1767-1781, ISSN: 0096-3445, DOI: 10.1037/xge0000531
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148/10 2020-04-25

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