The Psychology of Prejudice

By Mark P. Zanna; James M. Olson | Go to book overview

8
Power, Gender, and Intergroup Discrimination: Some Minimal Group Experiments

Richard Y. Bourhis

Université du Québec à Montréal

Our definition of racism will go beyond belief or attitudes to include actions. The significant factor of ingroup preference, whether racially or ethnically based, is the POWER that the ingroup has over an outgroup.

-- Jones, 1972, p. 117

Much of the early work on the social psychology of intergroup relations stresses intraindividual and interpersonal psychological processes contributing to prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior ( Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson , & Sanford, 1950; Billig, 1976). In contrast, Sherif ( 1966) functional approach provides a true intergroup framework to the study of prejudice and discrimination by documenting how realistic conflict of interest over scarce resources leads to antagonistic intergroup relations. Though Sherif's realistic conflict theory (RCT) received much empirical support in the literature ( Brown, 1988; Sherif, 1966), results from Tajfel's minimal group paradigm studies (MGP) show that conflicting group interests are not a necessary condition for intergroup discrimination ( Tajfel, 1978).

Results of over three decades of research using the minimal group paradigm demonstrate that the mere categorization of people into two groups is sufficient to foster intergroup discrimination ( Brewer, 1979; Diehl, 1990; Tajfel, 1981). Typically, the minimal group paradigm involves members of two arbitrary groups allocating pecuniary points to members of the ingroup and members of the outgroup. There is no social interaction either within or between anonymous group members; there is no previous history of relations between the groups and there are no instrumental links between subjects' responses and their self- interest. Although these procedures are designed to eliminate grounds for discriminatory behavior, results show that subjects, nevertheless, discriminate by choosing not only to give more points to ingroup members than to outgroup ones but also to maximize, the difference between awards made to the ingroup and the outgroup, even at the cost of sacrificing maximum ingroup profit. The minimal group discrimination effect displays considerable robustness in being replicable

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