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"Your gain is my loss": An examination of zero-sum thinking with love in multi-partner romantic relationships and with grades in the university classroom

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Title: "Your gain is my loss": An examination of zero-sum thinking with love in multi-partner romantic relationships and with grades in the university classroom
Author: Burleigh, Tyler John
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Meegan, Daniel V
Abstract: This thesis examines zero-sum thinking (ZST)--loosely defined as the perception that "your gain is my loss". First, I define the construct of ZST, and then identify its causes and roles. In contrast to previous work, I argue that scarcity beliefs are neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for ZST. This is because: 1) even when resources are scarce, nonzero-sum interaction is possible, and 2) ZST might instead be caused by resource entitlement beliefs. I argue that ZST might serve two psychological roles: 1) as a cognitive heuristic it might have a causal influence on judgment, and 2) as a rationalization it might provide a moral justification for certain selfish or discriminatory behaviours. Finally, I use ZST to understand behaviour in two social contexts. First, although zero-sum thinking has been linked to prejudices against certain social groups, it has not been examined in the context of multi-partner romantic relationships. I hypothesize that some monogamists should have a tendency to interpret consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships in zero-sum terms, and that this tendency should be associated with their prejudice against CNM relationships and individuals. Two studies provide support for this hypothesis. A third study investigates the hypothesis that ZST rationalizes the expression of anti-CNM prejudice, but does not find support. Second, curved grading is often lamented for creating what is assumed to be a competitive (or hostile) environment by virtue of the fact that it creates an artificial shortage of high grades, yet not all interactions in a curved classroom are zero-sum. I argue that the relative status of students is a critical determinant of whether one student's gain would be a loss for another. Thus, I hypothesized that individuals would be least likely to cooperate with a peer when: 1) grades were curved, and 2) that peer's status was proximate to their own. Further, I hypothesized that when there was uncertainty about the interaction, individuals would behave as if it was zero-sum. Two studies provide support for these hypotheses. A third study investigates the Social Value Orientation trait to account for individual differences in ZST, but does not find support.
Date: 2016-08
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
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Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada