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Realistic Group Conflict Theory

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  1. Realistic Group Conflict Theory PSY 203s Dr. Chiwoza R. Bandawe

  2. Background • Muzafer (and Carolyn) Sherif • Found psychology myopic in understanding human social behaviour • Rejected individualistic view of prejudice • Cannot extrapolate individual to group • Argued that prejudice is a group phenomenon: Dynamics between whole groups

  3. Individualistic Theories • Individual is prejudiced against Group X • Negative stereotypes & beliefs • Internal hostile feelings • Hostile behaviour towards Group X

  4. Realistic Group Conflict Theory • Basic premise: Groups have their own reality • Reality determined by material conditions that exist • Competition (for limited resources) negative relations • Cooperation & reciprocal interactions positive relations

  5. “Whenever there are not enough resources to meet the needs of two or more groups, there is a realistic probability that intergroup relations will deteriorate”Carr (2003) • Intergroup attitudes, perceptions, images arise from context in which intergroup behaviour occurs.

  6. Robber’s Cave Experiments • Demonstrated Realistic Group Conflict Theory with regard to prejudice & stereotypes • Detailed study of group structure and intergroup relations • Three different experiments – 1949, 1953 and 1954 • Groups of unacquainted 11-12 year old boys

  7. The Experiments • Experiments situated as summer camp • First in Connecticut • Moved to Oklahoma (Robber’s Cave site) • Participant Observation studies

  8. General format of experiments • Participants: 11-12 year old boys • Homogenous background: white, protestant, lower middle class SES, same level of pubescence, mentally “normal” • Researchers were camp counsellors • Hidden microphone and cameras • Parents gave permission, boys unaware they were participating in experiment

  9. Stages of experiment • Stage 1: Free friendship formation • Stage 2: Division into groups • Stage 3: Group formation • Stage 4: Intergroup competition • Stage 5: Cooperation for a superordinate goal

  10. Experiment 1: 1949 Connecticut Site

  11. Stage 1 Free friendship formation

  12. 24 boys arrive at campsite • All activities camp wide • Maximum freedom of choice of: • friends • bunks • Seats • athletic teams

  13. Researchers established: • Friendship choices • Boys’ strength at various activities • Favoured activities

  14. Stage 2 Division into groups

  15. Cut across friendship lines • Equal strengths • Housed separately • Different eating tables • Different activities • Identified by colours - red & blue

  16. Stage 3 Group formation

  17. Time spent exclusively in group activities • Taken for hikes, cook-outs, swimming, canoe rides. These activities required group cooperation.

  18. Development of groups • Names - Red Devils and Bull Dogs • Hierarchical structure emerged • Leaders surfaced • Flags, emblems, jargon • Nicknames • Special places • Ingroup cohesion: specified way of doing things: nude swimming, cursing

  19. Friendship choices

  20. Stage 4 Intergroup Competition

  21. Introduced competitions • Sports & athletic competitions: Tug of war, baseball • Camp games • Winners were rewarded: pocket knife, trophy • Initially there was good sportsmanship

  22. As competition grew more intense “sportsmanship” declined • Accusations of “cheating”, “unfairness” • “Fairness and justice were notions that the boys interpret and reinterpret in ways that were advantageous to the ingroup” Taylor & Moghaddam (1987, p.40)

  23. Negative outgroup attitudes: • Outgroup were: “Sneaky, stinkers and smart alecks” • Losing group – blamed the leader. Wanted leaders who were warlike and aggressive.

  24. Introduction of “frustration” • Party where half cakes were damaged • Red Devils arrived first – took undamaged goods • Bull Dogs arrived shortly afterwards • Assumed damage done by Red Devils • “Warfare”: Dorm raids

  25. Experiment 3: 1954 Robber’s Cave site

  26. Similar structure to previous experiments • Participants: • 22 boys • 11 years old • Middle class • Higher than average intelligence

  27. No stage of free friendship formation (Stage 1 omitted) • 2 groups of boys were brought separately to the campsite (Stage 2: Division into groups omitted) • Housed separately in different areas

  28. Stage 3 Group formation

  29. Stage 4 Intergroup competition Rattlers vs. Eagles

  30. Bean Toss Task • Beans scattered in a field • All boys had to collect as many as they could in one minute • Placed in a bag with mouth tied so could not be counted • Submitted for judgment

  31. Projector showing contents of bag for 5 seconds • Same amount (35) each time • Each group overestimate number of ingroup and underestimated number of outgroup

  32. Overt Behaviours • Not speaking to each other • Raiding dorms • Throwing food at each other • Boys were seen by outsiders as “wicked, disturbed and vicious” Sherif (1966) • Competition for limited resources began once they became aware of other group

  33. Stage 5 Cooperation between groups

  34. Cooperative situations • By use of Superordinate goals: • “Goals with a compelling appeal for members of each group, but that neither group can achieve without participation of the other” (Sherif, 1966, p.49) • Goal was to establish conditions under which prejudice and stereotypes may be eliminated

  35. Tasks required groups acting in concert to achieve goal • Supplemented tasks with a preacher who preached on tolerance, forgiveness and cooperation • Brought the groups together for mutually pleasurable experience • These did not help or eliminate tension

  36. 1. Water Tank problem • No water coming from taps • Left to boys to sort out • Checked water tank • Discovered pipes blocked with sacking • Cooperated in establishing problem, taps unblocked • Outcome: Did not eliminate friction

  37. 2. Hiring of movie • Staff put up half the money • Required whole group to contribute • Outcome: • Film (Treasure Island) shown • Seating choices still along group lines

  38. 3. Food truck breakdown • Camp out at Cedar lake • Groups separate • Truck stalled • Required both groups to turn truck

  39. Outcome Day 1 • Groups on separate pulling ropes • Prepared food together • Outcome Day 2 • Groups intermingled on both pull ropes

  40. Repeated cooperation • Increased friendliness toward outgroup: Name calling disappeared. Reduction of unfavourable stereotypes toward outgroup • Trip home: Sat together and sharing of prizes won

  41. Three Phases of RCGT • PHASE 1: INTRAGROUP INTERACTION (Group Formation) • PHASE 2: INTERGROUP COMPETITIVE INTERACTION (Intergroup Conflict) • PHASE 3: INTERGROUP NON-COMPETITIVE INTERACTION (Intergroup cooperation)

  42. Supporting Evidence • Competition for limited and valued resources elicits hostile intergroup behaviour • Blake & Mouton (1961, 1962) : Managers & administrators in the “lab” given tasks. Created competition

  43. Replications • Diab (1970) Lebanon • Evidence of intergroup hostility • Same enrolment assessment procedure as Sherif. • 11 year old boys • Violence occurred in competition phase • Stabbing, police had to intervene

  44. Tyerman & Spencer (1983) • UK Scout troop • Knew each other well • Competitions led to mild outgroup hostility • Sermons had strong effect in reducing hostility

  45. Ageev (cited in Platow & Hunter, 2001) • Russian youth at a Pioneer Youth Camp • Competitive sporting activities heightened ingroup favouring attitudes • Found decrease in ingroup favouritism/ outgroup hostility when groups cooperated on agricultural activities

  46. Analysis of real groups • Ember (1981) • Studies 26 small scale communities • Violence became more common as population pressures, famine or severe food shortage increased • Divale & Harris (1976) • Similar results among Fore of New Guinea

  47. Contradictory findings • Competition without intergroup bias • Rabbie & Wilkens (1971): Dutch teenagers. Work independently & rate their work. Hostility to outgroup still manifested even though they were not in competition

  48. Implications of RGCT • Recap Findings: • 1. Material competition between groups leads to intergroup prejudice & behaviours that are discriminatory • 2. Groups opt to compete rather than cooperate • 3. Cooperating for superordinate goal leads to prejudice reduction

  49. Problems with the Realistic Group Conflict Theory

  50. Problem 1. Other social psych variables • Other variables need to be taken into account to explain intergroup discrimination. These variables can increase intergroup discrimination independently or in different combinations • Actual or anticipated intragroup interaction • Actual or anticipated intergroup interaction • Actual or anticipated loss in competitions