Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Social Identity and Prejudice in Muslim and Hindu Adolescents of Traditional and Modern Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Social Identity and Prejudice in Muslim and Hindu Adolescents of Traditional and Modern Schools

Article excerpt


All plural societies of the world are confronted today with the challenges of cultural diversity that exists there. India represents one of these societies where multiculturalism has been nurtured since ages. Social identity of people in this country is largely conceptualized both in terms of their original roots (e.g., homeland) and cultural characteristics (e.g., language, religion). While these are often included in describing groups as different, current conceptualizations of social identity are based on how people perceive and identify themselves in a given society (Abrams and Hogg, 1988). In this approach, identification with a social group represents a psychological state, which is very different from merely being designated as the member of one social category or another. This identity is as real as any other identity, and it tends to have important self-evaluative consequences for the concerned individuals and groups. By evaluating one's in-group more favorably than the out-group, individuals are able to achieve positive social identity and self-esteem (Abrams and Hogg, 1988).

One offshoot of social identification is prejudice, which is reflected in a low preference and interpersonal attraction for the members of different groups. It is believed that prejudice is a part of the social heritage of the developing child, and it is transmitted across generations as an important component of the accumulated knowledge of society through family, school, neighborhood, community and religious institutions.

Tajfel (1959) suggests that social categorization is a cognitive process of dividing the social world into "Us" and "Them". According to this theory, members of different groups are likely to be seen as more different from each other than they really are, while members of the same group will be seen as more similar. Categorization leads not only to stereotypical perception of in-group and out-groups, but it also leads to some degree of accentuation of inter-group differences. The "accentuation effect" is largely accounted for by social comparisons, because it occurs mainly on the self-enhancing dimensions through the exaggeration of inter-group differences and in-group similarities.

Tajfel, Billig, Bundy and Flament (1971) showed that mere categorization was sufficient to elicit in-group bias and inter-group discrimination. Support for this claim has been obtained in several studies (Jha, 1972; Prasad, 1972; Sinha and Sinha, 1960, LeVine and Campbell, 1972; Bano and Mishra, 2005, 2011) carried out in different countries using a wide range of participants (male, female, children and adults). The evidence has been so compelling that inter-group discrimination in such situations appears to be a remarkably robust phenomenon (Brewer, 1979a, 1979b; Tajfel, 1982). Attempts have been made to explain this difference in terms of categorical differentiation (the exaggeration of difference between two categories or groups) and intra-group homogeneity (members of out-group seen as similar on various attributes), but the explanations are still not clearly satisfactory.

Tripathi and Mishra (2006) have pointed out that development of social identity and prejudice in India follows a pattern different from the one reported from the Euro-American world because of certain peculiar features of the social context in which the groups are embedded and nurtured. They indicate that from its very beginning the Indian society has been multicultural in nature. A distinguishing feature of this society is its hierarchical structure, which is based on a division of its people into four major categories (varna), namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra. In the present time different caste groups represent the "mainstream" society and constitute the "majority" group of the Indian population (about 76%). Several other "non-caste" or "out-caste" groups exist more like "peripheral" groups. One of them is called "adivasi" or "tribal" (about 8 percent), who claim to be "indigenous" to the soil. …

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