New Study Examines the Role of Positivity in Intragroup Conflict

November 18, 2019by Noah Shaw

Summary of:

Theodorou, A., Livi, S., Allesandri, G., Pierro, A., & Caprara, G., (2019). I don’t feel positive, but you are: Every issue can be settled! The role of self and others’ positivity in the perception of intragroup conflict at work. Current Psychology. 1-9.

Background & Theory:

Evidence exists which maintains the theory that personal resources can be utilized to mitigate intragroup conflict. Positivity is a personal and collective resource that can capacitate workers to overcome difficult situations. This research dives deeper into the role of both individual and collective positivity on intragroup conflict.


Research was completed to answer the following questions:

1. What role does individual positivity play in the perception of group conflict?
2. What role does group positivity play in the perception of group conflict?
3. How does the interaction between individual positivity and group positivity affect the perception of group conflict?


Research was conducted on a sample of 140 employees from two separate Italian companies who worked primarily in small groups. In the form of a convenience sample, measures of positivity and demographic information were collected from all of the employees along with statements of informed consent for participation.

Individual positivity was measured using the Positivity Scale, which was composed of 8 statements (i.e. “I generally feel confident in myself.”) to which responses were recorded by a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

Group positivity was measured using four out of the eight items of Jehn’s Scale, which has been used frequently for studies of intragroup conflict. The statements on this scale highlighted both task and relationship conflict and were measured using a 6-point Likert scale. Data were analyzed using IBM SPSS statistics version 25.

Individual and group positivity scores were grand mean-centered to reduce multicollinearity and to facilitate the interpretability of the study’s effects.


After analyzing the data, the research aligned with other studies in reporting that positivity helps improve perceptions of intragroup conflict. However, this study more specifically concluded that both individual positivity and group positivity result in lower experienced intragroup conflict. This means that positive individuals in this study experienced low intragroup conflict and that group positivity led to lower individual experience of intragroup conflict.

The research also suggested that when there is low group positivity, high positive individuals experience lower intragroup conflict than low positive individuals. On the other hand, when there is high group positivity, low positive individuals do not differ from high positive individuals in their experience of intragroup conflict.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this study, we can take away a few key insights:

• This study affirms that social environments can provide resources to help with challenging events. The level of one’s perceived conflict is determined in part by the individual and in part by the individual’s social atmosphere. When intragroup conflict occurs in these environments, possessing a greater breadth and variety of resources such as positivity can lead to better work adjustment.
• Group positivity makes a difference for individuals in intragroup conflict. Individuals with both high and low positivity in high positivity group environments reported low perceived conflict. This suggests that group positivity can act as a buffer to individual perception of conflict.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: It may be helpful to consider the beneficial implications of positivity as an interventional resource for high-conflict environments. This can be implemented by helping to enhance group morale, having the group share past positive events with each other, and fostering group confidence and optimistic expectations about the future through various strategies.

For Everyone: Lack of your own positivity can be compensated by the positivity of others in handling group conflict. Therefore, surrounding yourself with positive individuals can be an important step in dealing with and preventing group conflict.

Noah Shaw

Noah is the Peace Operations Coordinator at Pollack Peacebuilding Systems and holds a Master's in Dispute Resolution from the Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law.

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