Competition and Negative Networks: The Origin, Dynamics, and Harmful Consequences of Negative Relations

Negative ties, such as hate or relational aggression contribute to serious problems in a variety of social contexts. They ruin cooperation, decrease performance, induce intergroup conflict, and hamper cohesion. It is therefore surprising that in the boosting literature on networks, ties have been thought mainly in positive terms. The proposed research aims to correct for this asymmetry and attempts to discover the true nature and mechanisms of negative relations.

The major aims of the research program are threefold. First, we aim to discover the true nature and mechanisms of negative relations and networks in different social contexts. Second, we develop theories that explain their interrelated dynamics with competition. Third, we attempt to assess the impact of negative ties on performance, cooperation, cohesion, and ethnic integration.

Our major hypothesis is that most negative ties form as they are tools and also unavoidable consequences of competition. Competition for limited resources that are acquired in social processes such as popularity, social status, and power creates strategic alliances and counter-alliances, and it could induce envy, anger, and frustration. All these forms of negativity go beyond the scope of dyadic rivalry, as it is witnessed, facilitated, and sometimes appreciated or mediated by relevant others. Hence, these processes are embedded in the network structure and the dynamics of positive and negative relations are intertwined with competition.