The social context of prejudice
Read this article: The Women Behind The Masks Of Hate (Links to an external site.)
Also read Box 9.4 in the textbook (p. 357)
And this: Klan Women ( L.O.T.I.E ) (Links to an external site.)
Then discuss the following questions:
What kind of women would join the hate group? What are the reasons they join? How does their prejudice evolve after they join?
You can also discuss any other insight or reaction you get from the readings.
The Social Context of Prejudice
Human relationships always occur in an organized social
environment-in a family, in a group, in a community, in a
nation-that has developed techniques, categories, rules and
values that are relevant to human interaction. Hence the
understanding of the psychological events that occur in human
interactions requires comprehension of the interplay of these
events with the social context in which they occur …. The
social psychologist must be able to characterize the relevant
features of the social environment in order to understand
or predict human interaction.
-MORTON DEUTSCH AND ROBERT KRAUSS (1965, PP. 2-3)
Realistic Conflict Theory
The Work of Muzafer Sherif
John Duckitt’s Extension of
Realistic Conflict Theory
Social Identity Theory
Social Identity and Intergroup Bias
Factors that Influence Social
Issues in Social Identity Theory
Looking Back at Social Identity
Relative Deprivation Theory
Dissatisfaction, and Resentment
Relative Deprivation and
Integrated Threat Theory
Hate Group Membership
Why People Join Hate Groups
Recruiting Hate Group Members
Leaving the Group
Questions for Review and
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 325
The theories and research presented prior to this chapter have generally
focused on people as individuals in isolation from any social context. This
chapter takes a different perspective. Rather than considering people in isolation
from others, it focuses on the social context of prejudice and the influence other
people have on individuals’ attitudes and beliefs. As Deutsch and Krause (1965)
pointed out in the quotation that opened this chapter, people do not operate in a
vacuum; rather, they operate in an environment-a social context-made up of
other people and other social groups.
The first four sections of this chapter describe theories that deal with the ways
in which relationships between groups-intergroup processes-can contribute to
prejudice. The intergroup process perspective focuses on what happens when
people think of thelllielves and others in temlS of the social groups to which
they belong rather than as individuals. For example, the first theory we discuss,
realistic conflict theory, holds that people come to dislike members of other
groups because they see those groups as competing with their own group for
needed resources. From this perspective, it is not the individual group members’
stereotypes and ideologies that influence their attitudes, but the nature of the
relationship-competitive or cooperative—–between the groups: People dislike
members of competing groups and like members of cooperating groups. The second
theory we discuss, social identity theory, examines how people’s identities are
tied to group membership and how this relationship can lead to intergroup bias.
Relative deprivation theory is discussed next; this theory proposes that when people
compare their situation to others in similar circumstances, they sometimes
conclude they are not getting what they deserve. The fourth theory we present
is integrated threat theory, a perspective that explains how the three other theories
are related to each other. In the final section of the chapter, we take a look at
hate groups, groups whose very existence is predicated on prejudice, and the
kinds of people who are attracted to those groups.
REALISTIC CONFLICT THEORY
Realistic conflict theory (Bobo, 1988; LeVine & Campbell, 1972; Sherif, 1966)
is the earliest intergroup theory of prejudice, tracing its roots back to the beginning
of the 20th century. In 1906 William Sumner wrote that “the insiders in a
we-group are in a relation of peace, order, law, government, and industry, to each
other. Their relation to all outsiders, or other-groups, is one of war and plunder ….
[Attitudes] are produced to correspond. Loyalry to the group, sacrifice for it, hatred
and contempt for outsiders, brotherhood within, warlikeness without-all grow
together, common products of the same situation” (p. 12). In contemporary terms,
realistic conflict theory proposes that people dislike members of outgroups because
their ingroup is competing with the outgroup for resources, resulting in Sumner’s
“war and plunder.” _
Realistic conflict theory proposes that people are motivated by a desire to
maximize the rewards they receive in life, even if that nleans taking those rewards
326 CHAPTER 9
Laway from other people (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). Thus, people join groups
because cooperating with ingroup members makes it easier to get rewards.
However, because different groups are frequently in pursuit of those same resources,
they end up competing with one another for those rewards. According
to realistic conflict theory, this competition leads to conillct between groups;
one result of this conflict is a disliking for, or prejudice against, members of
The Work of Muzafer Sherif
The research of Muzafer Sherif (1966) provides what is perhaps the most famous
demonstration of the principles of realistic conflict theory. From 1949 through
1954, Sherif conducted a series of studies on intergroup conflict, the best known
of which is the “Robbers Cave” study carried out at Robbers Cave State Park in
southeastern Oklahoma. (Robbers Cave got its name because Jesse James and
other outlaws had supposedly used it as a hideout.) The participants in these
studies were 11- and 12-year-old boys who thought they were simply attending
a summer camp; the researchers were part of the camp staff so they could observe
the boys without arousing their suspicions. The boys were strangers to each
other before they arrived at the calnp and were carefully selected so that they
had similar socioeconomic backgrounds and showed no evidence of mental or
emotional problems. They were assigned to two groups that were similar in
tenus of average physical strength, athletic skills, and other characteristics of the
members. Sherif wanted to be sure that none of the research results could be
attributed to systematic differences aITlong the boys or between the groups.
Group members were given time to get to know one another and to permit
the emergence of natural leaders within the groups. During this period, the
groups devised names for tbemselves (the Eagles and the Ratders) and group
members worked together on tasks designed to build group cohesion, but the
two groups did not yet interact. The researchers then brought the groups together
and introduced an element of conlpetition by setting up a series of
games-such as baseball, football, and a treasure hunt-in which prizes were qwarded to the members of the winning group. Box 9.1 provides Sherifs description
of the outcome: derogation of and aggression toward the outgroup
Sherif ended each of the studies with activities that restored good relations between
the groups.). Sherif (1966) concluded that “the sufficient condition for the
rise of hostile and aggressive deeds and for … derogatory inlages of the outgroup
[is 1 the existence of two groups competing for goals that only one of the groups
could attain” (p. 85; italics in original).
Although Sherifs (1966) research was conducted more than 50 years ago
and used a very restricted participant sample (White, middle-class, Protestant
boys), his findings have stood the test of time. Rupert Brown (1995), for example,
noted that evidence supporting realistic conflict theory has been found in
both laboratory and field research in Europe, Australia, Israel, and Africa as well
as the United States. Recent research suggests that competition has carry-over
The tournament started in a spirit of good sportsmanship,
but as it progressed good feeling began to
evaporate. The “good sportsmanship” cheer customarily
given after a game, “2-4-6-8-who do we appreciate,”
followed by the name of the other group, turned into
“2-4-6-8″who do we appreci-hate.” [Italics in original.]
Soon, members of each group began to call their rivals
“stinkers,” “sneaks,” and “cheats.” … The rival groups
made threatening posters and planned raids, collecting
secret hoards of green apples as ammunition.
The Eagles, after defeat in a game, burned a banner
left behind by the Rattlers. The next morning the
Rattlers seized the Eagles’ flag when they arrived on
the athletic field. From that time on, name-calling,
scuffling, and raids were the rule of the day. A large
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 327
proportion of the boys in each group gave negative
ratings to the character of all boys in the other.
When the tournament was over, they refused to
have anything more to do with members of the
other group ….
Near the end of this stage [of the study], the
members of each group found the other group and
its members so distasteful that they expressed
strong preferences to have no further contact with
them at all. In fact, they were subsequently reluctant
even to be in pleasant situations (eating, movies,
entertainments), if they knew that the other group
would be in the vicinity.
Sherif (1966, pp. 82-83).
potential. That is, when ingroups are involved in a competitive situation, the
result can be prejudiced responses against an outgroup even if the outgroup is
not involved in the competition. Gennan college students, for example, showed
nlore prejudice toward Muslims after participating in a competitive versus a noncompetitive
knowledge test, even though Muslims were not their competitors
and did not otherw-ise participate in the experunent (Sassenberg, Moskowitz,
J aco by, & Hansen, 2007).
John Duckitt’s Extension of Realistic Conflict Theory
Realistic conflict theoty is a relatively straightforward approach to prejudice: com-=petition
leads to conflict that leads to prejudice. However, John Duckitt (1994) has
pointed out that most tests of realistic conflict theory have been limited to one type
of competition, competition betvveen groups of equal status and power. He went
on to note that conflict often arises betVeen groups of unequal power and status,
such as when a majority group in a society dominates one or more minority group~
Also, in some of these cases, although the majority group denies the minority groups
the full benefit of the society’s material and social rewards, open conflict often fails to
lTIaterialize. To account for these situations, Duckitt developed a typology of types
of realistic conflicts and the resulting patterns of prejudice. Table 9.1 shows a portion
of his typology.
Two types of conflict in Duckitt’s (1994) scheme are based on direct inter~
group COlTIpetition: Realistic conflict theory addresses the first type, competition
with an equal group, in which the ingroup sees the outgroup as a threat to the
ingroup’s ability to acquire some resource. This perceived threat leads the ingroup
members to feel hostility toward the outgroup. These feelings of hostility
328 CHAPTER 9
TAB L E 9.1 Types of Realistic Conflict and Resulting Patterns of Prejudice
Image of Orientation to
Nature of Conflict Outgroup Outgroup Function for Ingroup
Competition with equal group Threatening Hostility Mobilizes group members
Domination of outgroup by Inferior Derogation Justifies dominance and
Responses to Domination by Outgroup
Stable oppression of ingroup by Superior Submission Avoids conflict
Unstable oppression of ingroup Oppressive Hostility Mobilizes group members
by outgroup to challenge oppression
Responses to Challenges to Ingroup Dominance
I”group sees challenge as Inferior and Hostility and Justifies suppressing the
unjustified threatening derogation challenge and mobilizes group
members for conflict
Ingroup sees challenges as Powerful Appearance of Avoids conflict
SOURCE: Adapted from TabJe 6.1 in John Duckitt, The Socia! Psychology of Prejudice, Table 6,1, p. 109. Copyright © 1992. reprinted by permission of
Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, OT.
provide the motivation for the group to engage in a conflict with the outgroup as
a way to acquire the resource, But what happens if one group wins the conflict?
In that case, domination of the outgroup by the ingroup occurs and the result often is
that the winning group dominates and exploits the losing group. Such an outcome
is evident in the domination and exploitation that have historically characterized
the relationships of the White majority in the United States to minority
groups (see Chapter 1) and to the relationships of colonial powers to the people
whose lands they colonized, such as when Great Britain ruled India betv.reen
1858 and 1947. In such cases. members of the dominant group generally see
menlbers of the subordinate group as inferior and derogate them by stereotyping
them in negative ways or in positive ways that connote low power and status.
This positive stereotyping reflects the “benevolent” fonn of prejudice discussed
in Chapter 6. The dominant group then uses these stereotypes as legitimizing
myths (in the language of social dominance theory; see Sidanius & Pratto. 1999.
Chapter 7) to justifY their dominance and oppression. These myths typically include
the assertion that the “negative” qualities of the subordinated group must
be controlled for the protection of both groups and that members of the subordinated
group must not be given too much responsibility or power because they
are incapable of handling it.
“-…., How does a subordinated group respond to the dominating group? Duckitt I (1994) proposes that either of two processes can occur. In stable oppression (see
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 329
Table 9.1), the subordinated group accepts the dominating group’s view that it is
superior to them and submits to that group to avoid conflict. Members of the sub-=J
ordinated group may also take on the dominatiug group’s value system, r<jecting
their own group’s values in the process. This acceptance of the dominant grouP’S]
values is sometimes referred to as false consciousness, “the holding of false or
inaccurate beliefs that are contrary to one’s own social interest and which
thereby contribute to [maintaining] the disadvantaged position of … the group”
(Jost, 1995, p. 400). False consciousness leads “members of a subordinate group
to believe that they are inferior, deserving of their plight, or incapable of taking action
against the causes of their subordination” (Jost, 1995, p. 400), which makes
them unwilling to challenge the dominant group’s position. In the second process:-]
unstable oppression, the subordinated group rejects the subordinating stereotypes and
lower status assigned to it by the dominating group and sees the dominating group as
oppressive. The realization that they are oppressed leads subordinated group members
to develop hostility toward the dominating group. These feelings of hostility
motivate subordinated group members to challenge the other group’s dominance
Duckitt’s (1994) final question is “How does the dominating group re~
spond to the subordinated group’s challenge?” (see Table 9.1) If their response
is to see the challenge as unjustified, the dominating group concludes that the
subordinated group is both threatening and inferior. The dominating group
members then respond with hostility to the perceived threat and with increased
derogation to reinforce their view that the subordinated group is inferior. These
attitudes are used to justify whatever actions the dominating group members
believe are necessary to maintain the status quo. If the response is to see the]
challenge as justified, however, the subordinated group is seen as legitimate and
they are given the power to demand change. For example, Duckitt (1994)
noted that the U.S. civil rights movement gained ground in the 1960s because
of “the perception by Inany whites that the black struggle is one that cannot
legitimately be denied on the basis of important social values such as democracy
and equality of opportunity” (p. 107). Another positive outcome is that the
dominating group begins to treat the subordinated group with true tolerance.
Unfortunately, however, in nlany cases there is only the superficial appearance
of tolerance. For example, as was discussed in Chapter 6, overt prejudice in the
United States has been supplanted by more subtle forms of prejudice that have
been described as modern, sYlnbolic, or aversive. Whether this tolerance is real
or superficial, it provides a means of avoiding overt intergroup conflict.
Realistic conflict theory holds that prejudice and discrimination arise as a
result of real competition between groups for resources that both groups want.
These resources may be either material, such as money, goods, or land, or social,
such as status or power. One implication of realistic conflict theory, then,
is that if groups are not in competition, there should be no prejudice or discrimination.
However, the next theory to be considered. social identity theory,
holds that intergroup competition is not a necessary prerequisite for prejudice
and discrilnination; rather, the mere existence of social groups is sufficient.
330 CHAPTER 9
SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY
Following Sherif’s (1966) work on intergroup conflict and prejudice, research on
intergroup behavior virtually disappeared in the United States (Turner, 1996),
replaced by an emphasis on individual-level cognitive processes, such as those described
in Chapters 3 and 4 (E. E.Jones, 1998). Social identity theory was developed
by European psychologists who believed that North American psychologists were
putting too much emphasis on the individual and not paying sufficient attention to
the role social group l11ernbership plays in influencing attitudes and behavior
(Turner, 1996). Foremost among these theorists was Henri Tajfel who noted
that realistic conflict theory was correct in holding that competition for resources
leads to intergroup conflict. He wondered, however, if such competition was necessary
for conflict and proposed that group membership “can, on its OWll) determine, ..
intergroup behavior” (Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, & Flamant, 1971, p. 153; emphasis in
~ Social identity theory is based on the concept of social identity, the part of a
person’s self-concept that derives from membership in groups that are important
to the person. Such groups can include one’s family, college, nation, and so forth.
en identifYing with a group, the person feels that what happens to the group is
happening to him or her as well (Augoustinos & Walker, 1995). For example, if
someone praises your college, you feel good about it; if someone disparages your
college, you feel upset. Why do you, as the saying goes, “take it personally?”
Because your college is part of your social identity, so how people see your college
does reflect on you personally; your college is, to some extent, part of you, a part
that links you to similar people, such as other students who attend your college,
and differentiates you fi’om other people, such as students at other colleges. People
have multiple social identities (Deaux, 1996), such as being a male New Yorker
who is a student at the University of Alabama; the particular identity or identities
that are active or salient at anyone time depends on a number of factors that
we discuss shortly. Social identity theory also holds that people are motivated
to develop and Inaintain social identities that are positive but that clearly set
their groups apart from other groups. That is, people want to see their groups as
distinct from, but also better than, other groups: They want their group to be
Social Identity and Intergroup Bias
Tajfel and his colleagues (Tajfel, 1969; Tajfel et a!., 1971) proposed that when people
identify with an ingroup and view other people as members of an outgroup,
they perceive members of the ingroup in more positive tenns than members of
the outgroup. Tajfel and his colleagues demonstrated this phenomenon in a series
of experiments using the minimal group paradigm discussed in Chapter 3. Recall that,
in this paradigm, research participants are assigned to groups based on very minimal,
even trivial, criteria. Yet even when group members never interact, people show an
ingroup bias in favor of members of their own group. Although the amount of
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 331
ingroup bias found in this kind of research is often small, the effect is consistent, having
been repeatedly replicated in the decades since Tajfel’s original research (Mullen,
Brown, & Smith, 1992). Social identity theorists have proposed two hypotheses to
explain the ingroup bias effect. These hypotheses are the categorization-competition
hypothesis and self-esteem hypothesis, and the processes they describe can operate
either separately or in tandem.
The Categorization-competition Hypothesis. The categOriZation-COmpetitionJ
hypothesis holds that categorizing oneself and others into an ingroup and an outgroup
is sufficient to generate intergroup competition. Recall from Chapter 3
that when a particular social identity is activated, an outgroup homogeneity tiffect
occurs: People perceive members of the outgroup as nlore similar to each other
than they actually are, while seeing members of the ingroup as distinct individuals
(Linville, Fischer, & Salovey, 1989; Park & Judd, 1990). As a result, people believe
differences between the ingroup and the outgroup to be greater than they
really are. For example, many Americans who are not of Latin American descent
tend to see “Latinos” or “Hispanics” as a single cultural group, all of whose members
share similar values, customs, food preferences, and so forth. In contrast,
Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and people whose ancestors
came from other Latin American countries, see themselves as distinct groups
and can point to significant cultural and language differences that set them apart
from one another (Huddy & Virtanen, 1995). When a social identity is activated,
then, people place themselves and others into sharply distinct and contrasting
This categorization process results in people taking an “us versus them” perspective
on the ingroup and outgroup (Hartstone & Augoustinos, 1995). North
American culture (among others) teaches that relations between groups are naturally
competitive and that other groups cannot be trusted because they are out to get the
resources “our” group needs (Insko & Schopler, 1987). Categorizing people into
ingroups and outgroups therefore arouses feelings of competition and a desire to
win. These competitive feelings then lead to an ingroup favoritism <iffeet: People fav;J;
their own group to protect their group’s interest against the competition (Tajfel &
Turner, 1986). On a larger scale, perceived competition can lead people to thi
that outgroups cause society’s problems and that intergroup contact should be
avoided (Jackson, 2002). One implication of this competition arousal hypothesis is
that intergroup bias should be strongest when people see their group in relation to
just one other group. Intergroup bias should decrease as the number of other groups
increases, because people’s feelings of competition are diluted across more outgroups.
Thus, the ingroup bias is found in research when participants are divided
into two groups, which arouses the competitive motive, but not when people are
divided into three groups, which dilutes that motive (Hartstone & Augoustinos,
1995; Spielman, 2000).
The Self-esteem Hypothesis. Although the categorization-competition
hypothesis provides one explanation for intergroup bias, perhaps the most studied
332 CHAPTER 9
explanation has been the self-esteem hypothesis (Aberson, Healy, & Romero, 2000; CRUbin & Hewstone, 1998). Social identity theory proposes that people are motivated
to achieve and lluintain positive social identities. Because people’s social identities
interact -with their personal identities, having a positive social identity leads to
positive self-esteem: When a group people identifY with does well, its members feel
good about themselves. For example, people who identify with their colleges often
enhance their self-esteem by basking in the reflected glory of successful athletic
teanlS, enthusing about how “we won” and “we’re number one” (Cialdini et al.,
Michael Hogg and Dominic Abrams (1990) proposed that self-esteem
plays three roles in intergroup bias. First, intergroup bias results in an increase
in positive social identity by demonstrating that the ingroup is better than the
outgroup; this increase in positive social identity is reflected in an increase in
self-esteem. Second, because engaging in intergroup bias can raise self-esteenl,
people with low self-esteem will engage in intergroup bias to raise their selfesteem.
Third, when an event threatens people’s self-esteem, especially an event
linked to an important social identity, they can defend their self-esteem through
As we saw in Chapter 7, considerable research has been conducted on the selfesteem
hypothesis. Although the results of the studies have not always been consistent
with one another, research using the minimal group paradigm has generally
supported Hogg and Abrams’ (1990) three propositions (Aberson et al., 2000;
Rubin & Hewstone, 1998). Thus, in line with the first proposition, researchers
have found small but consistent positive correlations between self-esteenl and intergroup
bias, with higher self-esteem being associated with more bias. Although
this finding might seem to contradict the second proposition, that low self-esteem
leads to bias, Christopher Aberson and his colleagues (2000) noted that people with
low self-esteem do engage in intergroup bias but use different tactics than people
with high self-esteem. People with high self-esteelll are more likely to engage in
direct bias, such as by overrewarding members of their groups, whereas people with
low self-esteem tend to show bias indirectly, such as by expressing a desire for
greater separation from the outgroup. Finally, the results of research on the effects
of self-esteem threat have generally supported the third proposition, that threats
to self-esteem motivate intergroup bias. This is particularly true for individuals who
strongly identifY with their ingroup, perhaps because strong identification with the
ingroup increases commitment to the group (Branscombe, Ehners, Spears, &
Factors that Influence Social Identity
People have multiple potential social identities–such as student, mend, sorority
member, woman, child-care worker-each of which is available for activation at
anyone time. What factors, then, affect which social identity or identities are
activated and what detennines the strength of people’s social identities? Five factors
appear to be llllportant: self-categorization, a need for optimal distinctiveness,
threat to the group, chronic social identities, and individual differences.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 333
Self-categorization. Researchers using the minimal group paradigm randomly
assign people to artificial groups; as we have discussed, this. categorization is sufficient
to create an ingroup bias, However, as we also noted, people are mor~
likely to accept a social identity-and that identity is likely to be stronger-if
they self-categorize, or determine for themselves which group or groups they
belong to (Perreault & Bourhis, 1999). Self-categotization theory (Turner &
Oakes, 1989), proposes that categorizing oneself as a group member becomes
more likely as the perceived difference between the ingroup and an outgroup
increases, One way of looking at this process is in terms of distinctiveness, the exutent
to which a person feels that he or s.he differs along some dimension from
other people in a situation (Sampson, 1999). The greater the perceived difference,
the more likely a person is to self-categorize on the differentiating dimension
and take on the social identity associated with that dimension, For example,
an Asian woman is more likely to identifY herself by her ethnicity when most of
the people around her are White (McGuire & McGuire, 1988). Likewise, men
are more likely to think of themselves as male when in a group of women but
are less likely to do so when in a group of men; similarly, women are more likely
to describe themselves as female when in a group of men rather than a group of
women (Swan & Wyer, 1997).
The particular identity self-categorization activates depends on factors that
change from situation to situation; as a result, social identity can change from
situation to situation, For example, social identity as a sorority member might
be low for Miranda when she attends a meeting of her sorority, In this setting,
she sees herself and her sorority sisters as individuals with unique personalities and
there are no women from other sororities present to create a perception of difference
from other groups, However, at a meeting of the Panhellemc Council,
Miranda may be the only member of her sorority present, so the contrast between
herself as member of her sorority and the other women present (who
are members of other sororities) becomes more salient, leading Miranda to feel
greater social identification with her own sorority, If Miranda goes to another
meeting at which she is the only woman, her social identity as a sorority member
may fade into the background and her social identity as a woman may become
more salient; now the contrast is based on gender rather than sorority membership,
Box 9.2 provides a real-life example of how feelings of distinctiveness can
lead to prejudice.
One result of self-categorization is that as social identity increases and personal
identity decreases, group identity, group goals, and the influence of other group
members become more important than personal identity, personal goals, and personal
motives in guiding beliefs and behavior (Oakes, Haslam, & Turner, 1994).
Self-categorization theory calls this process self-stereotyping: group lnemberSJ
view themselves in terms of the (usually positive) stereotypes they have of their
group so that the self becomes one with the group and the positive view of the
group is reflected in a positive view of the self,
Differentiation from outgroups, then, is one factor that motivates selfcategorization,
A second &ctor is a need for certainty or correctness, Psychological
research consistently shows that that people have a strong need to believe that
334 CHAPTER 9
Social identity theory holds that increased feelings of
social identity lead to prejudice because of perceptions
of intergroup competition and as a way of maintaining
self-esteem. One factor that increases social identity is
an increase in distinctiveness, which can be brought
about by the presence of members of other groups.
Consequently, as members of other groups become
more salient to people, their feelings of prejudice
This process is illustrated by the results of a study
conducted by Marylee Taylor (1998). She used national
survey data to examine the relationship between the
proportion of Black residents in neighborhoods and
anti-Black prejudice among White residents of those
neighborhoods. As the figure below shows, the
distinctiveness-prejudice hypothesis was partially
~ ;.c: 20
m e 0 u 0 ———- “u'”
“Cl I!! -20
o 5 10
supported: White prejudice increased as the
percentage of Black residents increased to around
20 percent. Taylor also found, as would be predicted
by social identity theory, that White residents’ feelings
of competition with Blacks, indicated by feelings of
economic and political threat, were correlated with
both the percentage of Black residents in their
neighborhoods and their degree of prejudice.
Note that prejudice peaked when the proportion
of Black residents was about 20 percent and then
decreased as the Black population increased. This
finding reflects the principle that, under certain
conditions, intergroup contact can reduce
prejudice (Pettigrew, 1998). The role of intergroup
contact in redUcing prejudice is discussed in
15 20 25 30
Percentage of Black residents in neighborhood
White Prejudice as a Function of Percentage of Black Residents in Their Neighborhoods
As the percentage of Black residents increases from 0 to 20 percent, prejudice increases and then
begins to decrease. Scores are standardized, which means that 0 represents the average prejudice
score of all the White respondents; negative numbers indicate Jess than average prejudice and
positive numbers indicate greater than average prejudice.
SOURCE: Adapted from Taylor (1998, Figure 1, p. 526).
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 335
their attitudes, beliefS, and perceptions are correct (Hogg & Mullen, 1999).
Uncertainty about what to believe or how to act is unpleasant because it implies
that one has little control over one’s life; consequently, people are motivated to reduce
uncertainty by verifying the correctness of their beliefs. However, the problem
with detennining whether one’s beliefS are correct is that there is no concrete standard
for judging abstract beliefS. People therefore seek verification of their beliefs by
comparing what they believe with what other, similar people believe. If the beliefS
match, this comensus is taken as evidence of correctness: The more people who
agree, the more correct the beliefs are assumed to be.
Hogg and Mullin (1999) proposed that one way to achieve this kind of validation
is by identifying with a group that provides clear norms for structuring
beliefs and guiding behavior. Because the self-stereotyping effect leads people to
substitute the group identity for their personal identities, group beliefs on which
everyone agrees replace less certain personal beliefs. This reduces uncertainty and
removes an aversive state, so people experience the process as a pleasant one. This,
in turn, reinforces self-categorization and group identification. Moreover, when
people feel uncertain about the norms in a particular situation, they are more
likely to identifY with groups that provide information and that reduce feelings
of uncertainty (Grieve & Hogg, 1999).
Self-categorization theory assumes that seeing oneself as different from others
and the need for certainty are unconscious processes that lead people to categorize
themselves in terms of group identity. Researchers also have studied conscious
processes as precursors of self-categorization; one of those processes is
making a choice to identify with a group. Not surprisingly, people who choose
to join a group have a stronger social identity for that group than people who are
assigned to a group (Perreault & Bourhis, 1999). There are at least two reasons
why this happens. First, people tend to join groups composed of others who have
attitudes and values similar to their own (Forsyth, 2006), so a strong basis for
mutual identllcation already exists. Second, once people make a choice, they
tend to be committed to that choice and to see it in positive terms. To do otherwise
would be admitting to a mistake, which most people are reluctant to do
(Markus & Zajonc, 1985).
Optitnal Distinctiveness. Self-categorization theory holds that people are motivated
to identifY with groups that provide them with distinct positive social identities
and that fulfill their needs for certainty . .& we discussed, one result of this process is
self-stereotyping, in which people replace their personal identities with the group
identity. However, one shortcoming of the self-stereotyping hypothesis is that people
have a countervailing need to experience themselves as unique individuals who
are different from other people (Brewer, 1991; Brewer & Pickett, 1999). Marilynn
Brewer (1991) therefore proposed a modification to self-categorization theory,
which she calls optimal distinctiveness theory. Optimal distinctiveness theory hOldU-that
people are most likely to identify with groups that provide the most satisfYing
balance between personal identity and group identity. Consider the earlier example
of Miranda, the young woman who represented her sorority at the Panhellenic
Council meeting. As we saw, self-categorization theory proposes that she will
336 CHAPTER 9
identifY with her sorority because of the contrast she sees betvveen her sorority and
the other sororities represented at the meeting. Optimal distinctiveness theory
agrees that that kind of contrast lllotivates group identification, but adds that
Miranda also wants to feel that, while being a member of the sorority, she can still
be her own person. If the sorority tried to force MITanda to completely replace her
personal identity and values with those of the sorority, her level of group identification
would be reduced.
r Threat to the Group. Events that threaten the well-being of the group generate
L_~:ronger identification with the group. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
-on the United States Illost certainly threatened the well-being of its citizens. To
examine the result of this threat on group identity, Sophia Moskalenko, Clark
McCauley, and Paul Rozin (2006) asked U.S. college students to respond to the
question “How important to you is your country?” They found that importance
ratings increased following the September 11 attack compared to ratings made
6 months earlier. Eighteen months later, ratings had decreased to the pre-attack
level. However, reminding U.S. citizens of the attack can cause ingroup identification
to increase once more. College students who were asked to think back to
the events of September 11, 2001, increased their favorability ratings of President
George W. Bush (an indicator of ingroup identification) compared to students in
a control condition (Landau et al., 2004). Interestingly, these approval ratings
increased for both politically liberal and politically conservative students.
I ,ChroniC Social Identities. Although social identity theory emphasizes that
social identities that can change frOIn situation to situation, depending on the context,
people also have chronic identities that influence their behavior (Shennan,
Hamilton, & Lewis, 1999). Chronic identities are ones that are always with us,
regardless of how much the situation changes. As Stephen Shennan and his collea~
gues (1999) note, “A ballplayer on the playing field will obviously self-categorize
in terms of that athletic category, but may also think of himself as ‘a black
ballplayer.’ A physician will self-categorize as a member of the medical profession,
but if female, may often think ofhel~elf as ‘the woman doctor'” (p. 92). Chronic
identities may be especially llllportant for those people whose minority status
makes them distinctive in any intergroup situation regardless of any other identities
that situational factors activate.
Individual Differences. Just as chronic identities can influence social identity,
so can other chronic personal characteristics, such as personality and ideology.
Although, as we saw in Chapter 7, researchers have studied the relationships between
individual difference variables and prejudice for a long time, social identity
theory researchers have just begun to look for links between these variables and
social identity. For example, Stephane Perreault and Richard Bourhis (1999)
studied the relationship of ethnocentrism, the tendency to favor one’s own ethnic
and nationality groups over other such groups, to social identification. Using
the minimal group paradigm, they found that people high in ethnocentrislll wefe
more likely to identity with their assigned groups than were people low in
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 337
ethnocentrism. Thus, some people may have a predisposition to identify more
strongly with the groups to which they belong iudependent of any situational
factors that might be operating.
Issues in Social Identity Theory
Although social identity theory has proven to be a useful framework for studying
prejudice, a few issues require more research. These issues include whether social
identity processes can lead to outgroup derogation as well as ingroup favoritism,
the factors that determine whether ingroup m_embers will respond to aggression
against a fellow group member, and the relation between social identity and
Ingroup Favoritism versus Outgroup Derogation. Generally, research on]
social identity theory has found that although people show favoritism toward
members of their ingroups, they do not necessarily penalize outgroup members
(Brewer, 1979, 1999; Mummendey & Wenzel, 1999). According to Charles
Stangor and Scott Learly (2006) people are motivated by two important social
goals: protecting and enhancing the self and the ingroup and affiliation and social
hannony. Consistent with the research we have discussed so far, people receive
psychological benefit from being part of a group and ingroup favoritism is usually
the primary goal. However, people also are part of a larger community that includes
outgroups, and, in general, they approach those interactions with respect.
That is, “[i]n general, people view other people positively, act positively toward
them in most cases, help them if they can, and expect others to react positively
to them in a similar fashion (Stangor & Leary, 2006, p. 250). For example,
Christine Theimer, Melartie Killen, and Charles Stangor (2001) studied preschoolers’
willingness to exclude another child from an activity that was stereotypically
incongruent, such as a boy joirting a group of girls who were playing
with doUs. They found that the majority of both iugroup members (girls) and
outgroup members (boys) judged that it was wrong to exclude the child from
the activity. Moreover, the children’s reasoning reflected an attention to social
hannony, including concerns about fairness and being nice. Adults also consider
fairness in their evaluations of outgroup members. White college students who
evaluated job applicants showed a preference for hiring a member of the ingroup
(White applicants) over the outgroup (Black applicants) even though, objectively,
they were equally qualified. However, they did recommend hiring the
Black applicant 45 percent of the time (compared to 75 percent of the time for
the White applicant); based on the applicants’ objective qualifications, each should
have been recommended for hiring 50 percent of the time. This suggests that the
evaluators were at least somewhat fair in their assessments of the Black candidate.
That is, preference for the ingroup did not translate into rejection of the outgroup
(Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000).
Vicarious Retribution. Despite these research findings, by looking at the
world around us, it is easy to see that ingroup favoritism is often accompanied
338 CHAPTER 9
by hamlful discrimination and hostile attitudes toward outgroups, including
~aggreSSion against the outgroup. Under some conditions, ingroup members will
aggress against outgroup members even when they themselves have not been
directly harmed, an act Brian Licke! and his colleagues (Ijcke!, Miller, Stenstrom,
Denson, & Schmader, 2006) tenn vicarious retribution. Lickel and colleagues
~offer the example of violence in Northern Ireland, perpetrated by two opposing
groups, the Irish Republican Army, whose members wanted Northern Ireland to
reunite with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic, and the Protestant militia,
whose members wanted Northern Ireland to continue under British rule. Prior to
the truce between these warring factions, Inembers of both groups participated in
retributive killings. These killings occurred even when the retaliators did not
themselves experience violence, but a member of their religious group had been
hmned by the opposing group.
How do ingroup members decide whether to engage in vicarious retribution?
Lickel and colleagues (2006) propose that ingroup members first appraise the action
in question and decide whether it was directed toward their group and, if so,
whether han11 was intended (see Figure 9.1). Ingroup melubers also consider
whether the act was intentional. Hence, if a Catholic was murdered in Belfast,
Northern Ireland, ll1ernbers of the Protestant militia would have considered
Initial Event-Construal —…. Ingroup Identification —…. Outgroup Entitativity —…. Vicarious Retribution
• Event Categorization • Group Pride • Casual Inferences
• Act Construal • Group-member Empathy • Dispositional Inferences
• PubliCity of the event
• Authority structures
FIG U R E 9.1 A Framework for understanding Acts of Vicarious Retribution
This framework proposes a step-by-step process that ingroup members follow in deciding whether to carry out an act
of vicarious retribution. tngroup members first consider whether the event is relevant to their ingroup. If so, their
motivation to respond will be affected by how strongly they identify with their ingroup, by whether the action
threatened group pride, and by normative pressures to respond. If these factors favor response, the ingroup members
consider whether the outgroup is a unified and coherent whole; if so, vicarious retribution is more likely. Moderating
factors, such as group power and publicity of the event, are also considered.
SOURCE: From Lickel, B., Miller, N., Stenstrom, D.M., Jenson, T.F., & 5chamder, T. (2006). Vicarious retribution: The role of collective blame in intergroup
aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 372-390, Figure 1, p. 375. Reprinted by permission.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 339
whether the murder was related to the Protestant/Catholic conilict or had another
cause, such as a domestic argument or a botched robbery attempt.
If the ingroup members decide the aggressive act was due to conllict between
the ingroup and the outgroup, the likelihood of vicarious retribution
would then depend on how motivated the ingroup is to respond (Lickel et al.,
2006). Factors related to group identity, such as group pride, group-member empathy,
and nonnative influences come into play here. If the group’s status is
threatened, if they feel empathy for the person who experienced the harm, or
if cultural noDUS suggest that retaliation is appropriate, motivation to respond
will be high and vicarious retribution is more likely. Yet even if one or more
of these factors is operating, ingroup members filaY not retaliate. This is especially
true if the person responsible for the original violent action is unavailable for
retribution, but instead another outgroup member will be the target of the retaliation.
In making this decision, ingroups consider whether the outgroup is seen
as a unified and coherent whole and so is seen as collectively responsible for
the action. If so, ingroup members are more likely to act against an outgroup
member, even if that person did not commit the original act.
Even if these conditions are met, ingroup provocation may not result in
vicarious retribution. Lickel and colleagues (2006) describe additional factors
that affect whether an ingroup will respond to an aggressive act. One is the
power and status of the ingroup relative to the outgroup: High-power ingroups
are more likely to engage in retribution. Another is whether the provocation was
publicly known; if so, the ingroup’s pride was more likely threatened and their
motivation to respond will be enhanced. If their retaliation will likely also become
public, they are similarly more likely to act. Finally, if the initial aggressive
act was promoted by one of the outgroups’ leaders or was directed toward a
leader of the ingroup, vicarious retribution will be more likely.
This model can also explain why people fail to respond to genocide or mass
violence in other countries. For example, although the violence in Darfur has
resulted in the loss of over 400,000 lives and the displacement of over 2,500,000
people, international response has been slow and ineffective. According to the
vicarious retribution model, members of other countries have failed to curb the
violence because, although morally reprehensible, it is not direcdy relevant to
them. Hence, although the Bush administration called for action to stop the genocide
(President Bush discusses genocide, 2007), the international community did not
do so, perhaps because, as stated in the International Herald Tribul1e, it believed that
“[r]esponsibility for the Darfur horrors lies squarely with the government of the
Sudan” (The genocide continues, 2008).
Social Identity and Intergroup Tolerance, Although social identity theory
has focused on the negative intergroup effects of social identity, researchers and
theorists have begun to address how social identity relates to intergroup tolerance.
One approach to this issue focuses on conditions for tolerance and another on the
complexity of social identity.
Amelie Mummendey and Michael Wenzel (1999) have suggested that, under
some conditions, ingroup identification can lead to tolerance rather than hostility.
340 CHAPTER 9
If the ingroup either does not believe that it and the outgroup share a common
set of values, for example, or does not see their own values as lllore valid than
those of the outgroup, then there will be no hostility (see also Stangor & Leary,
2006). Tbey illustrate tlieir point witli the case of Germans’ attitudes toward
Turks: “Many Germans, although on the one hand generally having negative attitudes
towards Turks living in Gennany, on the other hand love to spend their
holidays in Turkey. Because during their holidays they are on Turkish territory
and in the Turkish culture, they may to a lesser extent represent Turks and themselves
as [being governed by the same set of values) and thus experience strange
habits and customs as less of a nonn violation or deviance” (p. 169).
Noting that people have many potential social identities, Sonia Roccas and
Marilynn Brewer (2002; see also Brewer & Pierce, 2005) have proposed that the
more complex a person’s social identity is, the more tolerant of other groups that
person will be. A person with a complex social identity is aware of having multiple
identities and sees people who share any of those identities as part of his or
her ingroup. In contrast, a person with a simple social identity focuses on only
one identity and sees only people who share that one identity as part of the ingroup.
Consider, for example, a woman who is Black and a lawyer. If she has a
complex social identity, she will view all women, all Black people, and all lawyers
as members of her ingroup; if she has a simple social identity that focuses on
her profession, she will view all lawyers as members of her ingroup, but exclude
anyone who is not a lawyer, even women and Black people who are not lawyers.
Roccas and Brewer (2002) postulate that a complex social identity leads people
to be more tolerant of group differences because a complex identity reduces the
motivation to self-categorize as a member of anyone group. For exanlple, having
multiple concurrent social identities reduces feelings of distinctiveness-the person
sees him- or herself as fitting in with many groups-and low distinctiveness
leads to a lower likelihood of self-categorization. In addition, Roccas and Brewer
suggest that a complex social identity protects people from threats to social identity
that can lead to ingroup bias: If people have more than one social identity, a
threat to one identity can be offset by focusing on a more positive identity until
the threat has passed.
Looking Back at Social Identity Theory
We have spent a lot of time discussing social identity theory because it is one of
the most important theories of intergroup relations and so has developed in a complex
and multifaceted way. Therefore, let us take a moment to put it all together.
Figure 9.2 sUIllinarizes social identity theory in diagrammatic form. At the center
of the theory, of course, is social identity: the part of one’s self-concept that COInes
from membership in groups. Social identity derives from both temporary, situational
factors such as self-categorization and the need for optinlal distinctiveness,
and from long-tenn factors such as chronic identities and individual difference
variables. Self-categorization, in tum, derives from feelings of distinctiveness, need
for certainty, and choosing one’s identities. Taking on a social identity leads to
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 341
j Distinctiveness :
I Need for certainty J t
j Self-categorization ~
I Choice of identity IL t
j Optimal distinctiveness : rl Feelings of ~
I Chronic identities ) Social f-. I Intergroup bias ~ Positive identity and I
I Individual difference I
variables I rl Motivation to maintain
a positive identity
FIG U R E 9.2 Social Identity Theory
Social identity derives from both situational factors such as self-categorization and the need for optimal distinctiveness
and from long-term factors such as chronic identities and individual difference variables. Self”categorization derives from
feelings of distinctiveness, need for certainty, and choosing one’s identities. Taking on a social identity leads to feelings
of competition with outgroups and a motivation to maintain a positive social identity. These factors lead to ingroup
bias, which promotes a positive social identity and self-esteem, thereby reinforcing the social identity.
feelings of competition with contrasting outgroups and a motivation to maintain a
positive social identity. These factors lead to ingroup bias, which promotes a positive
social identity and self-esteem, thereby reinforcing the social identity.
RELATIVE DEPRIVATION THEORY
Relative deprivation theory (Crosby, 1976; Davis, 1959; Runciman, 1966) 1
addresses the questions of how people become dissatisfied with some aspect of
their lives and how they react to that russatisfaction. The theory holds that
people become dissatisfied if they either compare their current situation to similar
342 CHAPTER 9
ituations they had experienced in the past or compare themselves to other people
currently in their situation and as a result decide that they lack some resource
that they deserve to have. They are not necessarily deprived in absolute terms; in
fact, their objective situation might be quite good (Tyler & Smith, 1998). l Rather, they feel deprived relative to what they had in the past or relative to people
who have the resource they believe they deserve, giving rise to the term relative
deprivation. Relative deprivation’s relation to prejudice comes in how people
-respond to feelings of deprivation: If people blame another group for causing the
deprivation, they come to dislike that group and its melnbers.
The concept of relative deprivation originated in research conducted with
American soldiers during World War II. One aspect of that research dealt with soldiers’
levels of satisfaction (or perhaps more accurately, dissatisfaction) with army
life. There were a number of unexpected findings, among which was that soldiers
in the air corps expressed more dissatisfaction than soldiers in the military police.
This finding was unexpected because promotions and the consequent raises in
pay and other benefits came much faster in the air corps than in the military police
(Stouffer, Suchman, DeVinney, Star, & Williams, 1949). The researchers explained
these findings in tenns of relative deprivation: Because ainnen saw many fellow
soldiers promoted quickly, they felt deprived when they were not promoted; in
contrast, because military policenlen saw few people being promoted quickly,
they did not feel deprived relative to their colleagues and as a result felt more satisfied
with the prOlTIotion systeul.
Since World War II there has been a vast anl0unt of research conducted on
relative deprivation theory in a wide variety of contexts (see Walker & Smith,
2002, for a history of this research). Here, of course, we focus on its relationship
to prejudice and intergroup relations. Mter describing how the theory proposes
that dissatisfaction arises and how people respond to dissatisfaction, this section
looks at research on the relation of relative deprivation to prejudice and at the
related concepts of relative gratification and scapegoating.
Relative Deprivation, Dissatisfaction, and Resentment
Relative deprivation theory holds that people become dissatisfied when they
compare their cUlTent outcomes with sonle standard. If they see that they are
getting less than the standard, they then feel deprived. As shown in Figure 9.3,
the standard can be based either on personal experience or from comparing one’s
own situation to another person’s situation (social comparison). James Davies
(1969) proposed that personal experience can cause feelings of relative deprivation
when reality fails to meet people’s expectations. Davies noted that people’s
expectations for future outcomes tend to increase over time as their actual outconles
get better. For example, in the United States the overall standard of living
increased from World War II until the 1980s; people got used to this steady increase
and expected it to continue, and children carne to expect to do better
economically than their parents did. According to Davies’s nlodel, people are
satisfied as long as their outcomes are a good match for their expectations.
However, if outcomes begin to decline, as when the United States began to
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 343
l Personal experience J I Social comparison J
I Expected/deserved II+-·—–,~—–> Actual outcome
outcome I ‘—____ –l
l Perception of relative I deprivation/low distributive justice
I Hostility toward perceived I
cause of deprivation
FIG U R E 9,3 Relative Deprivation as a Source of Dissatisfaction and Resentment
People compare the outcomes they receive to what they expect and believe that they
deserve to receive. This expectation is based on what they received in the past and on
what other people are receiving. If they see their outcomes as being less than they
deserve, feelings of relative deprivation and low distributive justice (unfairness) ensue.
These emotions lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment.. which are intensified if
people believe that the outcomes are distributed using unfair procedures (low procedural
justice) as well as being too low. Resentment of deprivation leads to hostility toward the
perceived cause of the deprivation.
lose jobs because of increasing competition from other parts of the world, an
increasingly large gap forms between expectations and outcomes. When the
size of the gap becomes too large, people feel deprived relative to their past
This process is illustrated by Michael Kimmel’s (2002) description of men
who join White supremacist groups:
They are the sons of skilled workers in industries like textiles and
tobacco, the sons of owners of small :£anus, shops, and grocery stores.
Buffeted by global political and economic forces, the sons have inherited
litde of their fathers’ legacies. The family fanns have been lost to
foreclosure, the small shops squeezed out by Wal-Marts and malls.
These young men face a spiral of downward mobility and economic
344 CHAPTER 9
uncertainty. They complain that they are squeezed between the
omnivorous jaws of global capital concentration and a federal
bureaucracy that is at best indifferent to their plight and at worst
complicit in their demise (p. Bll).
That is, these people feel deprived relative to what they had come to expect
to receive based on their parents’ successes. The second source of feelings of relative
deprivation is social cOlllparison: People see that others have something and
want it; not having it leads theln to feel deprived relative to the comparison
other, This was the process that was operating among the air corps soldiers during
World War II (Stouffer et al., 1949). l Thus, feelings of relative deprivation are similar to feelings of unfairness, or
what is known as low distributive justice (Greenberg, 1996): the perception
that outcomes are not being distributed on the expected basis that people who
deserve more get more, but on some other, unfair basis, such as ingroup favoritism.
As shown in Figure 9.3, this perception of relative deprivation or unfairness
leads to feelings of dissatisfacrion and resentment. Robert Folger (1987) points
out that the negative feelings are exacerbated if people believe that procedural
justice—the fairness of the process by which rewards are distributed (Greenberg,
1996)-is also low. For example, a student might feel deprived and upset if she
sees that someone got an A on a test on which she got a C; she’d feel even more
upset if she thought the other person got the A unfairly, such as by cheating.
Conversely, John Jost (1995) has proposed that convincing people that procedural
justice is high when distributive justice is low can reduce feelings of dissatisfaction
and resentment. Thus, Brenda Major (1994) has suggested that one
reason many women are willing to accept less pay than men is that they believe
that they do not deserve more nloney. That is, these women may believe that
their outcomes are unfair (low distributive justice), but also believe that the difference
in salaries between women and n1en is appropriate, so dissatisfaction is
low (high procedural justice). When feelings of dissatisfacrion and resentment
are aroused, they can lead to hostility toward the group perceived to be benefiting
at one’s expense. One way these feelings of hostility can be expressed is in
the form of prejudice (Duckitt & Mphuthing, 2002; Taylor, 2002).
Relative Deprivation and Prejudice
Relative deprivation researchers make a distinction between personal and group
elative deprivation (Runciman, 1966). Personal (or egoistic) relative deprivation
refers to the degree to which a person feels deprived as an individual. In
contrast, group (or fraternal) relative deprivation refers to the degree to
which a person feels that a group he or she identifies with has been deprived of
some benefit, independent of the amount of relative deprivation experienced. This
distinction is important because, generally, group relative deprivation has been
found to be related to prejudice whereas personal relative deprivation has not.
The classic study of the relationship of relative deprivation to prejudice was
conducted by Reeve Vanneman and Thomas Pettigrew (1972). Using survey data
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 345
of White respondents from four northern cities, Vanneman and Pettigrew classified
respondents as personally deprived if they saw their economic gains over the prior
5 years as being less than those of other White people and as experiencing group
deprivation if they saw their gains as being less than those of Black people.
Vanneman and Pettigrew were therefore able to construct four groups of respondents:
(1) those high in both personal and group relative deprivation, (2) those low
in both, (3) those high in personal relative deprivation but low in group relative
deprivation, and (4) those high in group deprivation but low in personal relative
deprivation. They found a modest relationship betvveen group relative deprivation
and prejudice: 54 percent of the White people high in group relative deprivation
expressed negative attitudes toward Black people compared to 42 percent of
Whites who were low in group relative deprivation. In contrast, personal relative
deprivation was unrelated to prejudice, with 48 percent of the members of both
the high and low groups expressing negative attitudes. Note the importance of the
relativity of the feelings of deprivation: Although the White respondents in these
surveys were objectivel)’ better off than their Mrican American contemporaries,
42 percent of them thought they were losing out relative to Mrican Americans,
and it was they who expressed the most prejudice.
Ursula Dibble (1981) found similar results in data from a survey of African
Anlericans that was conducted at about the same time as Vanneman and
Pettigrew’s (1972) survey. Dibble studied relative deprivation in terms of job discrimination:
People who had themselves experienced job discrimination were
classified as personally deprived and those who had not experienced it as not deprived.
Group relative deprivation was assessed in tenus of how much job discrimination
Blacks in general experienced. Dibble used a measure of hostility as her dependent
variable: advocating violence as a means of gaining civil rights. Her results
paralleled those of Vanneman and Pettigrew’s study of Whites: 28 percent of
those high in group relative deprivation advocated violence compared to 13 percent
of those low in group relative deprivation. In addition, those high in both
forms of relative deprivarion were the most likely to express hostility. In Dibble’s
study, personal relative deprivation may have resulted in additional hostility because
it was defined in very personal tenns-direct experience of job discriminationwhereas
Vanneman and Pettigrew defmed it more broadly in tenus of general
In the years since Dibble (1981) and Vanneman and Pettigrew (1972) conducted
their studies, research has continued to show a relationship between group
relative deprivation and factors such as prejudice and hostility toward outgroups,
both in the Urtited States and in other countries (Brewer & Brown, 1998;
Taylor & Moghaddarn, 1994). Although most of this research has been correlational
in nature, experiments in which participants’ feelings of group relative deprivation
are manipulated indicate that relative deprivation causes feelings of
prejudice and hostility and that it is these negative emotions that lead to prejudiced
reacrions (Grant & Brown, 1995). Furthermore, relarive deprivation can lead to
prejudice and hostility toward a minority group even when that group did not
cause the deprivation (Guimond & Dambrun, 2002). Clearly, then, feelings of relative
deprivation and the associated resentm_ent playa role in intergroup prejudice,
346 CHAPTER 9
Also, it is one of the few theories of prejudice that can explain why SOllle objectively
well-off people explain their prejudices as arising from their victimization by
less well-off groups (Tyler & Smith, 1998).
In contrast to the feeling that people are not getting all they deserve, people also
experience relative gratification, or the feeling that things are getting better
(see Guimond & Dambrun, 2002). Bernard Grofman and Edward Muller
(1973) have proposed that both of these feelings can lead to prejudice. Using
survey data, they divided respondents into three groups: those who thought their
economic situation would be worse in the future than in the past (relative deprivation),
those who thought their economic situation would be better in the
future than in the past (relative gratification), and those who thought things
would stay the same. Gro:finan and Muller assessed resentment and discontent
in tenns of endorsement of political violence as a way to bring about change.
They found that both people who thought things would get better and those
who thought things would get worse were more willing to endorse political
violence than those who saw no change ahead for themselves. More recently,
Guimond and Dambrun (2002) replicated Grofman and Muller’s (1973) results
experimentally, using a measure of ethnic prejudice as their dependent variable.
They found that both people who had experienced relative gratification and
those who had experienced relative deprivation expressed nlOre prejudice than
members of a control group. Research in a natural setting, based on responses
from a representative sample of South Mticans, also showed that perceptions of
relative deprivation and relative gratification lead to prejudice against immigrants,
a prune target for discrimination in that country (Dambrun, Taylor, McDonald,
Crush, & Meot, 2006).
Why do both deprivation and gratifIcation lead to prejudice? Guimond and
Dambrun (2002) suggest that it is because people define their self-interest differently
in the two situations. People who are relatively deprived focus on their
perceived losses and experience resentment and hostility toward those whom
they blame for those losses. In contrast, people who are relatively gratified focus
on their group’s superior position relative to outgroups. As proposed by social
dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999; see Chapter 7), they hold negative
beliefS about outgroups as a means of justifYing their relatively advantaged
position. People who see themselves as neither deprived nor gratified relative to
outgroups-that is, people who perceive their ingroups and outgroups as having
equivalent outcomes-have neither the need to ascribe blame for loss nor the
need to justify their greater outcomes as motives for prejudice.
One aspect of Guimond and Dambrun’s (2002) findings that you may have
noticed is that people sometimes express prejudice against others who played r no role in their relative deprivation. This process of blaming (and sometimes
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 347
punishing) an innocent outgroup for the misfortunes of one’s ingroup is caUed
scapegoating. Perhaps the most infamous example of scapegoating was th..:J
Nazis’ blaming the Jewish people for all the economic and social problems that
beset Germany following World War L The Nazis then used the Jews’ supposed
guilt as a justification for murdering six million Jews.
Blaming an outgroup for the ingroup’s problems is not a new phenomenon.
For example, Gordon Allport (1954) quoted the 3rd century Roman writer
Tertullian as having observed that “[the Roman people] take the Christians to be
the cause of every disaster to the state, of every misfortune to the people. If the
Tiber reaches the wall, if the Nile does not reach the fields, if the sky does not
move or if the earth does, if there is a famine, or if there is a plague, the cry is at
once, ‘The Christians to the lions’ ” (p. 243). In essence, then, scapegoating provides
what might be called a “designated villain” to explain the deprivation and
frustration caused by social and economic problems. Two theories have been proposed
to explain scapegoating, frustration-aggression-displacement theory and
Glick’s (2002; 2005) ideological theory, Both theories view scapegoating as a response
to frustration; however, they differ in their explanations of the psychological
processes that lead from perceived deprivation to intergroup hostility.
Frustration-aggression-displacement Theory. Frustration-aggression-displacement
theory was one of the first theories proposed to explain scapegoaring (Allport,
1954), This theory is based on the frustration theory of aggression, which John
Dollard and his colleagues derived from the psychoanalytic theory of aggression
(Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939; see Berkowitz, 1993, for a more
recent account of the theory), The frustration theory of aggression holds that fru~s-j tration causes aggression. The preferred target of that aggression is the cause of the ‘
frustration, but if it is not possible to be aggressive toward that source, aggression
will be displaced onto a more readily available target, For example, a person who
is treated unfairly by her boss might feel like taking aggressive action either physically
or verbally, but may do nothing out of concern for losing her job. However,
she vents her frustration when she gets home by yelling at her dog; that is, she displaces
her aggression from her boss to her dog. This displacement can occur at the
societal level as well. For example, post-World War I Gennany faced a host of
social and economic problems, including hyperinflation of the currency, high crime
rates, and political riots. Because there were no clear causes for these problems, the
Nazis exploited the situation by blaming the problems on a Jewish conspiracy to
Although the frustration-aggression-displacement theory of scapegoating has
been around for a long time, it has a number of shortcomings. One of the biggest
is that more than 60 years of research have failed to provide strong support for it
(Duckitt, 1994; Glick, 2002; 2005). Even the study most commonly cited in support
of the theory, Carl Hovland and Robert Sears’ (1940) study of the relation
between deteriorating economic conditions and racial lynchings in the United
States, has been shown to be problematic. Hovland and Sears postulated that
White Americans would scapegoat African Americans during economic downturns
and provided historical data that appeared to show a correlation between negative
348 (HAPTER 9
economic indicators and lynchings. However, using more modem statistical tools,
Donald Green and his colleagues (Green, Glaser, & Rich, 1998) showed that the
correlation did not really exist. In addition, they were not able to find correlations
between economic downturns and hate crimes directed at other minority groups.
Another problem is that frustration-aggression theory is, at heart, a theOlY of
individual, not group, behavior: The theory cannot explain why individual frustration
should result in scapegoating of groups (Glick, 2002; 2005). Even at the
individual level, support for the theolY is weak. For example, compared to nonprejudiced
people, prejudiced people who are flUstrated show Incre aggression toward
members of groups against whom they hold prejudices. However, prejudiced individuals
also show lllore aggression toward people against whom they are not prejudiced.
Thus, prejudiced people seem to be aggressive against everyone, not just the
targets of their prejudices as the theory would predict (Duckitt, 1994). Finally, the
frustration-aggression-displacenlent theory cannot explain why SOllie outgroups are
chosen as scapegoats while others are not (Duckitt, 1994), a problem Allport noted
in 1954. However, a more recent theory of scapegoating, Peter Glick’s (2002;
2005) ideological theory, does explain how scapegoats are chosen.
Ideological Theory. Figure 9.4 shows Glick’s (2002; 2005) ideological theory
Of scapegoating. The theory starts with a perception of group relative deprivation.
If there is no clear cause for the deprivation, people search for one. If an
i.deology (such as Nazism) exists that provides a scapegoat to explain their predicament,
people take up that ideology because it fulfills their need to understand
the cause of their deprivation. The ideology can also fulfill other needs, such as
having a positive social identity, by providing a common outgroup for people to
contrast themselves with, and by showing that the predicament is the outgroup’s
fault, so ingroup Inembers should not feel bad about themselves.
Several factors increase a group’s vulnerability to becoming a scapegoat
(Duckitt, 1994; Glick, 2002; 2005). Scapegoats usually have little power so that
they cannot effectively resist or retaliate for any actions taken against them. They
are typically outgroups that are visible enough in society to be salient to the ingroup.
Visibility can take a number of forms, including physical characteristics
such as skin color or well-publicized deviance from social norms as in the case
of a political group. They usually are disliked and already stereotyped in ways
that make them believable as the cause of the group’s deprivation. For example,
in describing the German Nazis’ scapegoating of Jews, Ervin Staub (2002) noted
that “there had been a long history of anti-Semitisnl, with periods of intense
mistreatment of Jews …. In addition to early Christian anti-Semitism … , the intense
anti-Semitism of Luther … , who described Jews in language similar to that
later used by Hitler, was an important influence. Centuries of discrimination and
persecution further enhanced anti-Semitism and made it part of German culture”
(p. 15). Finally, the scapegoated group tends to be seen as a threat to the ingroup,
a theme that is usually strongly emphasized in ideological propaganda.
Commitment to the ideology leads to hostile action against the scapegoated
group. Because people need to feel justified in taking such action, the action
both reinforces and enhances the negative stereotypes of the scapegoat: People
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 349
Outgroup that is
• of low power
• appropriately stereotyped
• seen as a threat
without a clear cause
Search for a
Commitment to ideology
that provides a
scapegoat as the cause
~ Ideologically motivated
action (e.g., hate crimes)
FIG U R E 9.4 Peter Glick’s (2002) Ideological Model of Scapegoating
Group relative deprivation without a clear causal agent leads to a search for a cause of the deprivation. If an ideology
(such as Nazism) exists that provides a causal scapegoat, people adhere to the ideology because it fulfills their need to
understand the cause of their deprivation. The ideology can also fulfill other needs, such as social identity and collective
self-esteem. Outgroups are chosen as scapegoats if they have little power, are visible, are disliked, are stereotyped
in ways that make them appropriate as the cause of the deprivation, and are seen as a threat to the ingroup.
Commitment to the ideology leads to action against the scapegoated group. The action both reinforces the stereotypes
and commitment to the ideology. The reinforced stereotypes lend additional apparent validity to the ideology
and help justify the actions taken against the scapegoated group.
SOURCE: Adapted from Peter Glick. (2002). “Sacrificial Lambs dressed in wolves’ clothing: Envious prejudice, ideology, and the scapegoating of Jews,” Figure 5.2,
p. 126.ln Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust, ed. by Newman and Erber. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.
reason that the outgroup must in fact be bad to deserve what the ingroup did to
them. Taking action in support of the ideology also tends to increase commitment
to the ideology. The reinforced stereotypes lend additional verisimilitude
to the ideology. Glick’s (2002; 2005) ideological theory is very new and as yet
has not been tested vvith research. However, it does an excellent job of explaining
the process of scapegoating and so holds great promise.
INTEGRATED THREAT THEORY
Although we have discussed realistic conflict theory, social identity theory, and
relative deprivation theory separately, they are, in fact, closely linked. Walter and
Cookie Stephan’s (Stephan et al., 2002; Stephan & Stephan, 2000) integrated
threat theory of prejudice, illustrated in Figure 9.5, provides one way of showing
how the theories relate to one another. Stephan and Stephan propose that prejudice
derives from three types of perceived threat to one’s ingroup: intergroup
anxiety, perceptions of realistic threats, and perceptions of symbolic threats,
Intergroup anxiety, di’lCussed in Chapter 5, consists of factors that make people
feel anxious or nervous in the presence of members of other groups. These
350 CHAPTER 9
factors include such things as fear of being embarrassed by saying or doing the
wrong thing, aversive prejudices, and so forth.
Perceptions of realistic threat derive from intergroup conilict and competition,
and from feelings of group relative deprivation. &” noted earlier, sometimes groups
really are in competition for resources and so constitute threats to each other and,
as research using the rnirllmal group paradigm has found, simply putting people
into groups can create ingroup favoritism which, in tum, can stimulate competition.
Feelings of relative deprivation Inay or may not stem from real deplivation,
but, as we saw earlier, in either case bLurring another group for the deprivation
creates hostility toward that group. In addition, feelings of group relative deprivation
can lead to feelings of cOlupetitiveness with the outgroup (Mummendey,
Kessler, Klink, & Mielke, 1999).
Symbolic threats come from perceptions that the outgroup differs from the
ingroup in tenus of values, attitudes, beliefS, moral standards, and other symbolic,
as opposed to material, factors. Perceptions of such differences are often associated
with the belief that the outgroup is trying to undermine those factoIS, especially
values, and destroy the ingroup by destroying its cultural underpinnings (Biernat,
Vescio, Theno, & Crandall, 1996).
from factors such as:
• fear of embarrassment
• aversiVe prejudice
Perception of realistic
• intergroup conflict
• group relative deprivation
Perception of symbolic threat
from perceived differences in:
• moral standards
FIG U R E 9.5 Walter and Cookie Stephan’s (2000) Integrated Threat Theory of Prejudice
Greater identification with the ingroup leads to more perceived realistic and symbolic
threats and more intergroup anxiety. Higher levels of these factors lead to more prejudice.
Adapted from Walter G. Stephan and Cookie W. Stephan. (2000). An integrated
threat theory of prejudice.
SOURCE: Adapted from Walter G. Stephan and Cookie W. Stephan, 2000. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing Prejudice and
Discrimination, Figure 2.4, p. 37. Reprinted by permission of lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 351
Identification with the ingroup is associated with all three types of threat. As
shown earlier in Figure 9.2, increases in ingroup identification lead to increases in
feelings of competitiveness with the outgroup, and increased social identity has been
found to be associated with perceptions of greater group relative deprivation in both
correlational research (Mull1mendey et al., 1999; Tropp & Wright, 1999) and
experimental research (Grant & Browu, 1995). Furtherruore, stronger identification
with the ingroup reflects stronger investment in group values, moral standards, and so
forth. Therefore, people strongly identified with the ingroup are more sensitive to
seeing ingroup-outgroup differences in values as threaterting (Stephan et aI., 2002).
Blake Riek and his colleagues (Riek, Mania, & Gaertner, 2006) reviewed ahilost 100
tests of integrated threat theoty and found that, as predicted by the model shown in
Figure 9.5, identification with the ingroup was related to realistic threat, symbolic
threat, and intergroup anxiety. These, in tum, each had unique influences on attitudes
toward the outgroup. However, the relationship between both realistic threat and
intergroup anxiety was stronger for low- rather than high-status outgroups. Overall,
then, integrated threat theory provides a useful modelfor tying intergroup conflict and
competition, relative deprivation, and other factors into a package of perceptions that
HATE GROUP MEMBERSHIP
Hate groups represent an extreme fonn of social identity. A hate group is aD
organization whose central principles include hostility toward racial, ethnic, and
religious minority groups. Most hate groups also espouse White racial supremacy
and advocate the segregation or deportation of minority groups, or, in a few
cases, the annihilation of those groups. Some hate groups, such as the one called
Christian Identity, claim to be religions or churches; others, such as the Ku Klux
Klan do not claim religious status but do assert that Christianity is one of their
guiding principles. A number of hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, are fairly
well organized with a national structure, whereas others, such as racist skinheads,
are loose coalitions of local groups.
Hate groups engage in a variety of activities, including holding membership
meetings, rallies, and bring-the-family social events; engaging in protests and
demonstrations; distributing pamphlets; producing television shows for public access
cable channels; runrting World Wide Web sites; and producing and distributing recordings
of racist music. Interestingly, despite the violent rhetoric hate group leaders
often use in their speeches and literature, with a few exceptions (such as racist skinheads)
the groups rarely initiate violent activities and often disown members who
engage in violence (Levin & McDevitt, 2002). A study of extremist internet sites
found that only 16.6 percent had content that specifically urged violence and that
it was common for sites to contain language specifically condemning violence
(Gerstenfeld, Grant, & Chiang, 2003). The groups operate this way because they
want to project an image of nonnalcy, an image of people who prefer to disagree
peacefully with government racial policy, but who are also willing to engage in
arrued defense of what they see as their rights (Blee, 2002, 2007; Ezekiel, 1995).
352 CHAPTER 9
The purpose of this section is to examine the psychological factors that predispose
people to join hate groups, the way in which hate groups recruit new
members, how the groups socialize recruits into becoming “good” group members,
and factors that motivate people to leave the groups. Space does not pennit
a discussion of the historical, political, and sociological factors that have led to the
rise and continuation of hate groups in the United States. Betty Dobratz and
Stephanie Shanks-Meile (2000), among others, have done an excellent job of
covering this complex topic.
Most of the information about hate group members comes from ethnographic
studies of current and fonner members, especially those conducted by James Aho
(1988, 1990), Tore Bj0rgo (1998), Kathleen Blee (2002), and Raphael Ezekiel
(1995, 2002). As Blee (2002) notes, one must be careful when evaluating people’s
reports of their motivations because autobiographical memory is constructive; that
is, people, usually unconsciously, select and interpret past events in tenus of their
CUlTent belief systems to help them justify those beliefS. Nonetheless, the consistencies
in the findings of the research conducted by Aha, Blee, Ezekiel (who worked
in different parts of the United States at different times), and Bj0rgo (who worked
in Europe) provide support for the generality of the motivational themes and
group processes they identified.
Why People Join Hate Groups
There is no one reason why people join hate groups. Rather, there seem to be a
set of factors that, in various combinations, lead people to see joining a hate
group as something reasonable to do. Ar110ng these factors are the person’s racial
attitudes, being in search of solutions to problems and questions that have arisen
in the person’s life, youthful rebellion, the allure of violence, and being male.
Racial Attitudes. Clearly, racial attitudes playa role in hate group membership:
No one who holds nonracist attitudes is likely to join such a group. However,
although rabid racism might characterize a few people at the time they join hate
groups, most new recruits do not hold extreme racist attitudes (Aho, 1990; Bj0rgo,
1998; Blee, 2002, 2007). Perhaps because oftllls, about one fifth of the Web sites
-include explicit statements that the group is not racist (Gerstenfeld et al., 2003).
Instead of explicit racism, hate groups are often are characterized by what
Philomena Essed (1991) called everyday racism or what James Jones (1997)
called cultural racism. Everyday racism and cultural racism reflect the assumption
inherent in l11uch of North American culture that the only correct social and cultural
values are European Christian values. This assumption, in turn, promotes
~negative, stereotyped views of people, such as members of minority groups, whose
values are presumed to differ frorn the European Christian nann (Biernat et al.,
1996). Everyday racism is the process that, for example, lets people laugh at racist
jokes and leads them to feel uncOlnfortable in the presence of minority group
members, even though they see themselves as unprejudiced and would not intentionally
act in a racist manner.
Everyday racism does not by itself lead people into hate groups, but it does
provide a foundation on which hate group recruiters can build when trying to
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 353
persuade people to join their groups. fu we will see, once people are recruitedJ
– into hate groups the process of organizational socialization converts everyday racism
into extreme racism, or in Blee’s (2002) term, extraordinary racism. Aha
(1988), for example, noted that “It is not uncommon to meet presendy dedicated
neo-Nazis who, when they fIrst read or heard its doctrines were either shocked by
them, morally revolted, or simply amused by what they took to be its patent
absurdities” (p. 161).
A Search for Solutions. Stephen Worchel (1999) has suggested that throughout
their lives people are on a search for solutions to the philosophical and practical
problerru; that inevitably confront them. They are trying to decide what things
are important in life. When bad things happen, people want to undmtand the
causes so they can put things right. People waut the sense of comradeship and
community that comes from associating with like-minded people. People want
to make the world a better place for thelllielves and their children. Hate groups
can appeal to some people because the groups seem to provide the answers to their
question<; and solutions to their problems.
&, Worchel (1999) noted, people want their lives to have meaning and purpose,
they want to know ~hat they are having an impact on the world and on
other people, and they want to have sense of pride and self-value. Membership
in hate groups can help fu1£l1 such needs, Based on his interviews with young
members of racist groups, Ezekiel (1995) concluded that participating in the
groups “brings a sense of m_eaning-at least for a while … , To struggle in a cause
that transcends the individual lends meaning to a life, no matter how ill-founded
or narrowing the cause, For young men in the neo-Nazi group that I had studied
in Detroit, membership was an alternative to atomization and drift; within
the group they worked for a cause and took direct risks in the company of comrades”
(p. 32). Pride and self-image may also playa role in the appeal of hate
groups. Bj0rgo (1998) concluded that pride “perhaps is the most important factor
involved when youths join racist groups …. Individuals who have failed to establi’ih
a positive identity and status in relation to school, work, sports, or other
social activities sometimes try to win respect by joining groups with a dangerous
and intimidating image” (pp. 235-236). Other people, especially young people,
may simply be drifting, looking for something to give purpose and direction to
their lives (Bjorgo, 1998). For example, Aho (1990) reported that while observing
a paramilitary training exercise being conducted by a hate group, “I spoke to
a young man garbed in jungle fatigues carrying an automatic rifle …. Behind the
mosquito face-net I discovered a bored … high school student who became animated
only when conversation shifted to his ‘rear interests in art, drama, and
wrestling” (p. 32). Thus, one neo-Nazi recruiting manual urges members to
“recruit “. disaffected white kids who feel ‘left out,’ isolated, unpopular, or on
the fringe or margins of things at school (outsiders, loners) …. Working with Nazi
skinheads will give them a sense of accomplishment, success, and belonging. In
recruiting, proceed from such ‘outsiders’ inwards toward the mainstream, conventional,
average students” (quoted in Blazak, 2001, p. 988).
One propaganda tool that hate groups use to attract high school and college
students who are searching for direction and meaning in their lives is racist rock
354 CHAPTER 9
music (Blee, 2002; Loow, 1998). Racist rock bands write and perform songs that
disparage and dehumanize members of racial and religious minority groups while
extolling the superiority of the White race. Blee (2002) quotes one neo-Nazi
leader as saying that “music has the potential to get through to the kids like
nothing else. The great thing about ll1Usic is, if a kid likes it, he will dub copies
for his friends, and they will dub copies for their friends, and so on. This has the
potential to become a grassroots, underground type movement” (p. 161). This approach
can be effective. Blee (2002) goes on to describe one young woman who
told her: “How I really started believing, thinking in that white separatist sense and
then got all white separatist, it was really through the music. There’s a whole other
genre of music out there that no one ever hears about, and it’s real powerful,
especially at that awkward stage where no one knows exactly who they are, It
gives you an identity, it says you’re special, you know, because you’re white”
(p. 162). Multimedia, such as video downloads and games, which appeal to young
people, are also common (Gerstenfeld et al., 2003).
Many members of hate groups have grievances and want to set them right.
For example, they may believe that the government and other powerful groups
whose actions they cannot control, such as employers, are treating them unfairly.
In some cases, this sense of grievance might be a reaction to the loss of White
privilege brought about by civil rights legislation. No longer, for example, does a
White job applicant get automatic preference over minority applicants (TurpinPetrosino,
2002). Exploiting the principle of group relative deptivation, hate group
recruiters frame this situation as one of minority group members unfairly taking
jobs away from more deserving White applicants. In other cases, pe”onal grievances
might lead to feelings of deprivation. Ezekiel (1995), for example, suggested
that a sense of grievance might be especially characteristic of poor Whites who feel
their plight is being ignored because news media reports and government officials’
speeches focus on minority group poverty. This attention paid to minority group
poverty lllay also lead poor Whites to feel shOltchanged on social services (Bj0rgo,
1998). Similar processes might also be at work among the middle class (Kimmel,
2002). Thus, one hate group recruiter told sociologist Randy Blazak (2001), “The
easiest place to recruit is around some big layoff. … You wait for things to get bad
and you go to the kids, not the parents and say, ‘You know why your dad got laid
om It’s because the money hungry Jews sent his job to China. They care more
about the … Chinese than they do about White workers” (p. 992).
In addition, Ezekiel noted that the poor White hate group members he interviewed
“were people who at a deep level felt terror that they were about to be
extinguished. They felt that their lives might disappear at any moment. They felt
that they might be blown away by the next wind” (p. 156). Their fear carne from
being born in poverty and from a lack of hope that things would get better. Hate
groups try to recruit new members by claiming to provide a means for White
people to unite and fight for what the groups present as rightfully theirs.
People also need to feel a sense of community. Bj0rgo (1998) and Ezekiel
(1995) reported that the young hate group members they intelviewed usually
had few strong social ties outside the group. The groups therefore provided
friendship and support networks not otherwise available to their members. In
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 355
addition, most of the members had few close family ties and often did not have a
father figure in the home. For these young men, older group members served as
father figures and role models, providing advice and guidance.
Finally, in his study of hate group members, Aho (1990) noted that one
important motivation was to make the world a better place. Most of Aha’s interviewees
were Christian religious fundanlentalists who saw a strong conilict
between their religious standards and the corruption and immorality rife in the
United States and the world at large. For these people, the hate groups provided a
set of scapegoats to blame for the perceived corruption and immorality-religious
and racial minority groups-and a solution-wresting control of the country
from those groups and putting it in the hands of right-minded White Christians.
See Box 9.3 for more on religion and hate groups.
Although it may seem like a contradiction, some hate
groups claim to be religions. Betty Dobratz (2001) and
Jonathan White (2001) identify three principal racist
religions: Christian Identity, Creatorism, and Odinism
(The World Church of the Creator). Christian Identity
has three central beliefs (Barkun, 1997): that
European Whites, not Jews, are the chosen people of
God, and as such should have dominance over all
other peoples; that Jews are the children of the devil,
born from the liaison between Satan and Eve; and
that” Aryans” must battle a Jewish conspiracy to
prevent the Second Coming of Christ. Creatorism is a
form of racist deism that holds that the Creator set
the universe in motion and established laws of
nature to govern it; people must work things out on
their own within the strictures of these natural laws.
According to Creatorism, racial primacy and purity
are essential to human surviva I because “nature
does not approve of miscegenation or mongrelization
of the races” (Dobratz, 2001, p. 290). Creatorism
claims no scriptural base for its racism, but holds that
“Our religion is our race” (quoted in White, 2001,
p. 940). Finally, Odinism is a resurrection of ancient
Norse mythology in the service of racism. It claims
that Northern European “Aryans” are a separate
race that is superior to all other races and so must
be kept racially pure. The best way to ensure
purity is through the separation of the races
Although racist religions, especially those
that claim a Christian basis, focus their recruiting
efforts on people whom White (2001) refers to as
mainstream fundamentalists (Dobratz, 2001), there
are important differences between mainstream
Christian fundamentalism and racist religion
(White, 2001). Although we present those differences
in terms of end points of a continuum, anyone
person’s beliefs could fall somewhere between those
Although both mainstream fundamentalism
and racist religion favor a literal interpretation of
the Bible, mainstream fundamentalists embrace its
call for universal love. In contrast, racist religion
“accepts the idea of love [only] for one’s own kind
[and] is defined by hate. One does not simply love,
one loves in conjunction with hate. For example,
one loves Christians because one hates everyone
who is not a Christian. One loves Whites because
one hates everyone who is not White” (White, 2001,
Racist religion claims that the Bible can be interpreted
to support racism; mainstream fundamentalists
reject such claims.
In the United States, mainstream fundamentalist
belief is not linked to one’s race or ethnicity,
whereas race is a central feature of racist religion,
which claims that God favors the White race and
God’s love (and by extension, believers’ love) applies
only to Whites.
Mainstream fundamentalists believe that they
must prepare for the Second Coming of Christ, which
will take place in accordance with Biblical prophecies
yet to be fulfilled, through religious observance. Racist
religions believe that the prophecies have already
been fulfilled and that they must fight to create
conditions conducive to the Second Coming. They
356 CHAPTER 9
believe that they must “give history a push” (Lacquer,
(Dobratz, 2001; White, 2001).·For example, Dobratz
(2001) quotes one group leader as saying, “Christianity
provides us with the moral framework of our groups, as
well as, the spiritual outlet” (p. 293). In addition,
different religious visions-such as Christianity, deism,
and paganism-permit appeals to different kinds of
people (Dobratz, 2001). For example, someone who
rejects Christianity might be attracted to a deist or pagan
version of racism. Dobratz also notes, however, that
religion can create tensions between groups whose
religious visions are fundamentally opposed. In addition,
some racists groups, such as White Aryan Resistance,
reject religion entirely. As a result, many hate groups
downplay religion, considering it to be a personal matter
that is irrelevant to the group’s goals.
1996, p. 32).
Both mainstream fundamentalism and racist
religion view evil as an active, important force on the
world that must be countered. However, mainstream
fundamentalists attribute evil to the work of Satan,
which must be countered through religious adherence,
whereas racist religion attributes evil to secular
conspiracies, especially Jewish conspiracies, which must
be physically destroyed.
Racist groups present themselves as religions
because religion can unify people who might actually
hold disparate racial beliefs, provide a justification for
those beliefs, and, as noted earlier, be a recruiting tool
Youthful Rebellion. Some young people may join hate groups as a way of
expressing rebellion against established authority, especially when they feel disenchanted
with and alienated from the political process. Bj0rgo (1998) noted that
youthful rebellion moves counter to whatever the current establishment’s political
doctrine is. Young rebels turned to leftist politics in the 1960s because the
political establishment was then conservative; a more liberal political establishment
pushes rebellion toward the political riglit. For example, Bj0rgo (1998)
quoted one fonner member of a European hate group as saying, “If you really
want to provoke society these days, you have to become either a National
Socialist [Nazi] or a Satanist” (p. 235). Similarly, Ezekiel (1995) found that the
young hate group members he interviewed in Detroit “feel strongly the urge to
be shocking and to scandalize the Establishnlent, and nothing serves the purpose
easier [sic] than the swastika” (p. 157).
The Allure of Violence. Some people, especially young men, find hate groups
attractive because of the violent images the groups project (Bj0rgo, 1998).
-Because most groups rarely engage in violent activities but do indulge in violent
rhetoric, membership provides a feeling of machismo, excitenlent, and danger
without much real risk. Many groups also provide paramilitary training, so that
members can feel empowered by the use of weapons but do not have to undergo
the rigors and discipline of military training.
Gender. Most hate group members are men (Aho, 1990; Blee, 2002; Ezekiel,
1995), perhaps because the groups’ ~iolent images repel women while attracting
men. In addition, most hate groups promote traditional gender roles and male leadership
and dominance in all activities. For the most part, male hate group members’
attitudes toward White women are benevolendy sexist: women’s proper roles are
raising children and housework while men provide WOlnen with the protection
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 357
they need to carry out their roles (Blee, 2002). In contrast, hate group members tend
to be hostilely sexist toward minority group women, portraying them as sources of
moral corruption. Despite these sexist organizational attitudes, many hate groups
have a significant number of female ll1_embers, and the groups target women for
recruitment, perhaps in an effort to soften their images (Blee, 2002).
Myths Concerning Hate Group Members. Although there is a stereotype
that portrays hate group members as being poor and uneducated (Aho, 1990;
Blee, 2002), that is not always the case. Although Ezekiel (1995) focused his
research on hate group members in poor White neighborhoods, most of the people
Aho (1990) and Blee (2002) interviewed were middle class and reasonably well
educated. In fact, as described in Box 9.4, Blee was particularly struck by the ordinariness
of the women she interviewed. Of the 278 hate group members Aho
interviewed, 50 percent had completed college or had had some post-high-school
education and 39 percent had completed high school or had obtained a General
Educational Development (GED) certificate; only 11 percent were high school
dropouts. Currently, many hate groups are focusing their recruiting efforts on the
better-educated segment of the population, especially those in high school and
college (Turpin-Petrosino, 2002).
The Psychological Functions of Group Membership. People can be attracted
to hate groups because they are searching for an<;wers and solutions to life’s questions
and problems, because they feel a need to rebel, because they :find the violent
images of the hate groups appealing, or from a combination of these factors.
Especially for people searching for answers, their everyday racist attitudes can
provide a source of answers: Being faced with the contrast of living in poverty
when others have more leads to a search for someone to blame; racism’s answer
Kathleen Blee (2002) described the women she
interviewed as being extraordinary in terms of their
degree of racism. Nonetheless, she noted that almost
all lived rather ordinary lives and would not stand out
in a crowd of everyday working- and middle-class
people. Consider two of the women she talked with,
who could be almost anyone’s mother or
Among the women I interviewed there was no
single racist type. The media depict unkempt, surly
women in faded T-shirts, but the reality is different.
One of my first interviews was with Mary, a vivacious
[Ku Klux] Klanswoman who met me at her door with
a big smile and ushered me into her large, inviting
kitchen. Her blond hair was pulled back into a long
ponytail and tied with a large green bow. She wore
dangling gold hoop earrings, blue jeans, a modest
flowered blouse, and no visible tattoos or other
racist insignia. Her only other jewelry was a simple
gold-colored necklace. Perhaps sensing my surprise
at her unremarkable appearance, she joked that her
suburban appearance was her “undercover
Trudy, an elderly Nazi activist I interviewed
somewhat later, lived in a one-story, almost
shabby ranch house on a lower-middle-class street
in a small town in the Midwest. Her house was
furnished plainly. Moving cautiously with the aid
of a walker, she brought out tea and cookies
prepared for my visit (pp. 7-8),
358 CHAPTER 9
is that there is a minority group conspiracy to keep you down (Ezekiel, 1995).
When faced with a conflict between one’s religious principles and a degenerate
secular world in which one must live, racism’s answer is to remove the corrupting
influence by removing religious and racial minority groups (Aho, 1990).
When faced with a decline in traditional White domlnance, racism’s answer is
to restore White entitlement (Turpin-Petrosino, 2002).
&, Ezekiel (1995) wrote of the people he interviewed, “Most were members
in this extreme racist group because the membership served a function, not because
they had to enact their racism. Given another format in which they could
have relieved their fears, given an alternative group that offered comradeship,
reassuring activities, glamour, and excitement, they could easily have switched
their allegiances. They would have remained racist-like their neighbors who
hadn’t joined a group-but they would not have needed to carry out racist actions
in a group setting” (p. 159).
Recruiting Hate Group Members
Why is it that some people who are psychologically predisposed to join hate
groups do so while others do not? Having a psychological predisposition to joining
a hate group is not sufficient. Potential new nlembers must be recruited into
the group; those who are not recruited are likely to find more constructive ways
of resolving their personal searches for answers, such as through church work,
neighborhood associations, or traditional political activities (Aho, 1990).
Most people who join hate groups do not seek the groups out; instead, current
group members recruit them into the groups (Aho, 1990; Blee, 2002). The
recmiting is usually done by someone the recruit knows; as Blee (2002) noted,
“It is a mistake to assume that the process of recruitment into racist groups differs
markedly from that through which individuals enter churches, neighborhood associations,
or bowling leagues-they join because of contacts with current members
and, in SOUle cases, a particular receptivity to the group’s ideas” (p. 188).
Thus, Aho found that 55 percent of the hate group members he interviewed
had been recruited by friends or family membe”, 17 percent by other pe”onal
acquaintances such as coworkers, and 18 percent by people encountered at political
meetings. Only 1 0 percent sought membership after reading literature produced
by a group. As one of Aho’s (1990) interviewees explained, “It was my
fi”iends that started to convince me that blacks weren’t my equal” (p. 188).
The recruiter is someone the recruit trusts and respects, either because the
recnliter is a family luember or friend, or because the recruiter has gained the
recruit’s trust and respect by acting as mentor and role model in an activity Unp01~
ant in the recruit’s life. For example, Aho (1990) told of a group of young
railroad employees who developed strong feelings of respect for an older work
group leader who was also a racist: “His (personality] first attracts the younger
men to him, not his beliefs. Only after strong bonds are established does he
open to them his prolific library of radical literature” (p. 189).
As this exanlple shows, recruitment into a hate group is usually a gradual process
(Aho, 1990; Blee, 2002). Nter gaining the trust of potential recruits, the recruiter
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 359
guides conversations toward political issues of general interest, such as crime, unemployment,
education, and government policies. While doing so, the recruiter feels
out the potential new group members for receptivity to the group’s ideology.
A recruiter might, for example, interpret crime statistics in racial terms by blaming
luembers of minority groups to see how potential recruits react. If they appear to be
receptive to the group’s ideology, the recruiter can guide them to draw on their
everyday racism to make such interpretations for themselves, encouraging their
commitment to the group’s belief system. Finally, the recruiter will invite recruits
to a group function to meet other people who think the same way.
Many group functions are rather innocuous events, such as bring-the-£unily
picnics, giving the group an appearance of nonnalcy. For example, “A flyer advertising
a neo-Nazi event promises a day of fellowship and racist learning, along with a
social time of music and meals at a local banquet hall” (Blee, 2002, p. 131). This
normalcy reassures the recruits that these people, at least, do not meet the stereotype
of rabid racist maniacs, but are “just plain folk” who, like the recruits, are trying to
raise their families in a difficult world. Blee (2002), for example, reported that “a
neo-Nazi recalled being surprised to find that a racist event was ‘kind oflike a big
powwow or something. There was no cross burnings or screaming'” (pp. 130-131).
Thus, one step at a time, recruits are drawn into full group membership.
Socialization is the process by which new members learn a group’s values and
learn how to be good group members. This section discusses the process of socialization
in hate groups and some of the social and psychological outcomes of
that socialization process.
The Socialization Process. Like other groups and organizations, hate groups
socialize new members by means of fOIDul and infonnal education and through
participation in rituals. In addition, hate groups try to reinforce the socialization
process by isolating members from opposing viewpoints.
Fonnal education of both new and old group members uses lectures and
speeches by leaders, books and pamphlets about the group’s ideology, and video
and audio recordings of speeches of propaganda disguised as docull1_entary
presentations. However, Blee (2002) suggested that these efforts may not be
very effective because members tend to “tune out” the speeches and the printed,
audio, and video materials are usually poorly written and produced, and boring.
For example, she reported that “[aJt a neo-Nazi gathering I attended, most people
paid only sporadic attention to long, boring speeches [on the topic of Jews
and Mrican Americans as racial enemies] by the group’s self-proclaimed leaders.
Even a livelier (at least to me) presentation by two younger members … had no
more success in sustaining the interest of the audience, many of whom left early
or spent time conspicuously reading the newspaper” (Blee, 2002, p. 76).
In contrast, Blee (2002) found that “much more animated discussions of racial
enemies occurred in informal conversations held in the food line, in the queue for
bathrooms, or in small groups clustered at the outskirts of the tent where speeches
360 CHAPTER 9
were given” (p. 77). That is, discussions with peers and other people in the group
whom menlbers respect personally is a much stronger source of infonnation than
fonnal presentations. Such face-to-face indoctrination is especially effective because
the discussions can address issues of special concern to the person being socialized
and the indoctrinator can exploit this concern to lead the person into more
extreme beliefS and greater commitment to the group’s ideology.
Participation in rituals is an inlportant part of the socialization process for hate
groups. These rituals include group singing of racist songs, parades and llutches,
dressing in ritual clothing such as Ku Klux Klan robes and neo-Nazi unifonns, and
ceremonies such as fmmal initiation into group membership and cross-bmnings
(Aho, 1990; Blee, 2002). These rituals serve two purposes. First, they promote
group unity and cohesiveness. Doing things together and dressing alike increase
meulbers’ identification with the group and their feelings of oneness with other
members. Second, rituals selve to increase ll1embers’ commitment to the group.
Taking action on behalf of a group, especially public action, increases one’s psychological
investment in the group (see, for example, Forsyth, 2006). Putting
effort and psychological energy into the group’s activities means that a person has
more to lose by leaving the group: The act ofleaving essentially says that the time
and effort given to the group were wasted reSQurces that cannot be recovered.
As new members become lucre C011111litted to the group, they spend more
tune with other group members and less time with family, friends, and acquaintances
who are not Inenlbers of the group. This change in the new members’
social networks has two effects (Aho, 1990; Bj0rgo, 1998; Blee, 2002). First, by
associating with people who share their beliefs, group members receive support
for those beliefs and reassurance that the beliefs they hold are conect. Second,
increased association with group Inembers isolates people from infonnation
that contradicts the group’s ideology and provides the group with the opportunity
to rebut any contradictory infoffilation Inembers might encounter. As one of
Bj0rgo’s (1998) interviewees noted, “In the past, when I had an opinion, I could
discuss it with people who disagreed with me. Now I can only discuss with people
who already agree with me completely. What if! am wrong?” (p. 240). To maximize
isolation from infonnation that contradicts the group’s ideology and to increase
dependence on the group for social support, many hate groups encourage
new menlbers to sever ties with nonracist family members and friends and to
replace them with the “family” of the group (Bj0rgo, 1998; Blee, 2002).
The Outcomes of Socialization. Blee (2002) noted that “[rJacist groups
change people. Most of the women I interviewed were changed profoundly by
being in a racist group …. They went from holding racist attitudes to being racial
activists, from racial apathy to racial zeal” (p. 188). These changes involve members’
social networks, their self-concepts, and the way they think about the world.
Hate group members tend to let their social relationships with nonmembers
wither away and create new relationships with other group members. As noted earlier,
the groups encourage this change to isolate members fronl infonnation that
contradicts the group’s ideology. However, the members often find the new relationships
rewarding (Aho, 1990; Blee, 2002). Aho (1990), for example, noted that
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 361
“while they rarely mention this as a motive for joining [the racist] movement, most
[members] appear to have benefited personally from their affiliations by sustaining
rewarding relationships with their recruiting agents” (p. 76). This restructuring of
social networks is accelerated and made easier when, as often happens, the new
members’ families and friends shun them for joining a hate group (Aho, 1988;
Blee, 2002). & a result, the group becomes the center of members’ social lives.
Because the group members live in a social envirOlllnent that emphasizes
race and supposed racial differences, being White becomes more central to members’
social identities, intensifying the effects of social identity described in our
discussion of social identity theory. For example, one woman member of the
Ku Klux Klan told Blee (2002), “It is not so much that I am in the Klan, it is
the fact that the Klan is in me. By the Klan being in me I have no choice other
than to remain, I can’t walk away from myself’ (p. 32).
In groups that advocate violence, the social environment makes violence seem
to be acceptable and proper, and members become more tolerant of violence toward
minority groups and of taking part in such violence. For example, one member
of a violent hate group explained her experience this way: “It is remarkable
how fast I have shifted my boundaries regarding violence. I used to be against
violence, but now it does not cost me a penny to beat and take out all my aggression
against someone who represents what I hate…. From being stunned and
scared by seeing and experiencing violence, I have come to enjoy it” (quoted by
Bj0rgo, 1998, p. 239).
Hand in hand with changes in the self-concept come changes in how members
think about the world. Because of the groups’ emphasis on race, m_embers
begin to interpret events, especially negative events, in racial tenus (Aha, 1990;
Blee, 2002; Ezekiel, 1995). When bad things happen, people want to understand
why. The ideology of hate groups provides the answer for their members: It is
because religious and ethnic minority groups have conspired to make them happen.
Similarly, group members come to redefine their self-interest in racial terms,
believing that keeping members of minority groups from improving their lives
will make life better for the hate group members and their families. Finally, racial
attitudes become more extreme and more solidified, with everyday racism being
transfonned into extraordinary racism, so that “being prejudiced against Jews
[becomes] believing that there is a Jewish conspiracy that determines the fate of
individual Aryans [the term used by racist groups for people of Northern
European descent], or. .. thinking that African American.., are inferior to whites
Lbecomes] seeing Mrican Americans as an imminent threat to the white race”
(Blee, 2002, pp. 75-76).
Leaving the Group
Although most hate groups have a core of dedicated members, for the most part,
hate group membership is very unstable: People continuously come and go between
various groups and move into and out of the racist movement as a whole.
“In the words of one [Ku Klux] Klan chief, the movem_ent is a revolving door”
(Ezekiel, 1995, p. xxii). Why do people leave racist groups? Two factors seem to
362 CHAPTER 9
be the most important: disenchantment with the group’s ideology or tactics (such
as violence) and the pull of social relationships outside the group.
Disenchantment With the Group. Disenchantnlent with the group can stem
from a number of sources (Bj0rgo,1998), These sources include negative effects
on members’ lives, loss of faith in the group’s ideology, and concern over group
As noted earlier, joining a hate group can generate disapproval from the member’s
family and fiiends, sometimes resulting in ostracism. If these social relationships
are important to the person, he or she may give up the group to preserve
those relationships. In addition, group membership can affect members’ work
and careers, Being very active in the movement can take time away frOlU a job,
resulting in poorer job perfonnance and the risk of being fired. In addition. because
having hate group members working for thenl may adversely affect the reputations
of their businesses, employers may fire enlployees who are known to be
members of hate groups and refuse to hire known members. Finally, for members
who take an active part in demonstrations and engage in violent activities, there is
the possibility of arrest and prosecution and the resulting adverse publicity.
Many people join hate groups because the groups and their ideology appeal
to members’ real need for meaning in their lives and answers to their problems.
However, as Ezekiel (1995) has noted. velY often the main thing the groups
provide is “a particular kind of theater. The movement lives on demonstrations,
rallies, and counterrallies; on marches and countennarches; on rabid speeches at
twilight; on cross-burnings with Gothic ritual by moonlight. By their nature
those actions guarantee failure [because they] bear little relation to the issues of
[the members’] lives·’ (p. 32). Even when groups have an ideology that provides
answers, if those answers prove unsatisfactory, or if people come to see the
answers as incorrect, they will be nlotivated to leave the group (Aho, 1988,
1990; Blee, 2002).
Although many hate groups advocate, and some engage in, violence against
their “enemies,” very often they prefer to downplay the violent aspects of their
ideologies to make themselves luore appealing to potential new members. Bj0rgo
(1998) suggested that people who are attracted to racist ideology but reject violence
as a means of achieving racist goals will leave groups when the violent aspect
of their ideology becomes apparent. However. Ezekiel (1995) noted that concern
over violence may also result from fear for personal safety: Groups “lose the greater
part of their followers as dangerous confrontations multiply; the less intense followers
decide after a few such experiences that there are better ways to spend
time’· (p. 102).
Relationships Outside the Group. Because hate group members often sever
their ties with family members and friends who are not group members, they become
dependent on the group for meeting their needs for affiliation, status, and
respect. Consequently, even when people become disenchanted with a group’s
ideology they may not leave if they cannot satisfY their social needs outside the
group. Therefore, establishing or renewing a rewarding relationship with a person
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 363
who is not a group member is the key to defection from the group (Aho, 1988,
1990; Bj0rgo, 1998; Blee, 2002; EzekieL 1995). A person is most likely to leave a
hate group if he or she does not find group membership to be rewarding but does
have a rewarding relationship outside the group. For example, “Getting a girlfriend
who is not involved with the [racist] movement is probably the most common
circumstance that motivates boys to leave and remain outside … ,However, if
the relationship breaks up, chances are high that they will return to the group”
(Bjorgo, 1998, p. 317). The more extensive and rewarding a social network a defector
fronl a hate group has, the less likely the person is to retum to the hate
group movement if one relationship ends.
Therefore, rather than shunning a family member or friend who joins a hate
group, one should maintain contact as a way of encouraging the person to leave
the group. This encouragement should take two forms. One is finding out the
needs that group membership fulfills and providing alternative, constructive ways
for the person to meet those needs. Simultaneously, one should work to counter
the group propaganda aimed at solidifYing the attitudes that support the person’s
membership in the group.
This chapter examined two aspects of the social context of prejudice: intergroup
processes and hate group luembership. Realistic conflict theory is the oldest intergroup
theory of prejudice. The theory holds that people dislike members of
outgroups because the ingroup is cOlupeting with the outgroup for resources.
Because this competition threatens the survival of the ingroup, outgroup menlbers
are seen in negative terms. If one group wins the cOlupetition and gains
dominance over the other group, the dominating group justifies its position by
viewing the subjugated group as inferior and stereotypes them in negative ways
or in positive ways that enlphasize their low power and status. The subjugated
group, in tum, can avoid conflict by accepting the dominating group’s definition
of their position; conversely, viewing the dominating group as oppressive can
mobilize members of the subjugated group to chal1enge the dominating group’s
position. The dominating group can respond to this chal1enge by defining the subj
ugated group as threatening as well as inferior as a way of preparing to suppress
the challenge; conversely, the dominating group can avoid conflict by being more
tolerant of the subjugated group’s desire for equality.
Social identity theory explains prejudice in temlS of the link between people’s
self-concepts and their membership in groups that are important to them. Because
people see these groups as part of themselves, they try to ensure the status of these
groups by favoring ingroup members over outgroup members when allocating
resources. This ingroup bias arises from feelings of competition that arise when
people think of their group relative to other groups and from a need to enhance
their own self-esteem by enhancing the position of their group relative to other
groups. An important factor influencing people’s level of identification vvith a
group is self-categorization: seeing oneself in group rather than individual teuns.
364 CHAPTER 9
Self-categorization increases when situational factors emphasize one’s group
membership, when Olle looks to the group as a source of information on important
topics, and when one has chosen to join the group. Other factors influencing identification
with the group are a need to balance group and personal identity, the
chronic identities one always experiences, threats to the group, and attitudes and
values that emphasize the group over the individual. Although social identity can
lead to prejudice, it can also lead to tolerance if ingroup members do not see their
values as conflicting with those of the outgroup or if a person has a complex social
Relative deprivation theory explains prejudice as a reaction to feelings of
being treated unfairly: If people blame a group for their unfarr treatment, they
develop negative feelings toward members of that group. These feelings of unfair
treatm_ent can be personal or can lead people to see their group as the collective
victim of unfair treatment. Feelings of group deprivation are more closely related
to prejudice than are feelings of personal deprivation. Feelings of being more
highly benefited than other groups can also cause prejudice: rather than feeling
angry because the other group has deprived thenl of something, people derogate
the other group to justify being better off. Feelings of relative deprivation can
result in scapegoating: choosing a group to be the “designated villain” who
caused the deprivation. Fmstration-aggression-displacement theory explains scapegoating
as a way of shifting blame for deprivation from one’s own group to
the designated group. Glick’s (2002) ideological theOlY explains scapegoating as a
way of fulfilling people’s need to understand why the deprivation exists. Groups
chosen as scapegoats tend to have little power, be salient to members of the ingroup,
be disliked, be stereotyped in ways that make them believable as causes of
the deprivation, and be seen as a threat to the ingroup.
Integrated threat theory brings realistic conflict theory, social identity theory,
and relative deprivation theory together using the concept of threat. Perceptions
of realistic threat can derive from intergroup conflict and feelings of group
relative deprivation, and perceptions of symbolic threat can derive from social
Hate groups are organizations whose central principles include hostility toward
racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. People attracted to hate
groups tend to have negative racial attitudes, to be searching for solutions to
problems and questions that have arisen in the person’s life, to be young and
rebellious, and to be attracted to violence. Contrary to the stereotype of hate
group members, nuny are reasonably well-educated members of the middle
class. Most hate group members are recruited by friends or relatives and undergo
socialization processes that nlake their racial attitudes more extreme. Socialization
tactics include education, isolation from opposing viewpoints, and participation
in rituals. This process tends to reduce members’ social networks to only other
group nlembers, provides them with a greater sense of social identity as White
people, and leads them to see the world as dangerous and threatening. People
who leave hate groups generally do so because they become disenchanted with
the group’s ideology and establish social ties outside the group that meet their
Realistic Conflict Theory
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 365
Duckitt, J. (1994). 11″ social psycholoRy ‘If prejudice. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Chapter 6 includes a complete description of Duckitt’s extension of realistic
Sherif, M. (1966). In common predicament: Social psychology of intergroup coriflict and
cooperation. Boston: Houghton Miillin.
Sherifs book contains a detailed description of the Robbers Cave study and
Taylor, D. M., & Moghaddam, F. M. (1994). T71Cories of intelJIroup relations: International
social psychological perspectives (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Chapter 3 provides an overview of the current status of realistic conflict theory.
Social Identity Theory
Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love or outgroup hate?
Journal <if Social Issues, 55, 429-444.
In this article Brewer provides an excellent discussion of the distinction
between ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation.
Brewer, M. B., & Pickett, C. L. (1999). Distinctiveness motives as a source of the social
self In T. Tyler, R. Kramer, & O. John (Eds.), The psychology ‘If the social self
(pp. 71-87). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
This chapter provides a recent overview of optimal distinctiveness theory.
Brown, R. (2000). Social identity theory: Past achievements, current problems and future
challenges. European Joumal if Social Psychology, 30, 745-778.
Brown provides an overview of the current status of social identity theory.
Roccas, S., & Brewer, M. B. (2002). Social identity complexity. Personality and Social
Psychology Review! 6,88-106.
Roccas and Brewer discuss the implications of having a complex versus simple
Relative Deprivation Theory
Glick, P. (2002). Sacrificial lambs dressed in wolves’ clothing: Envious prejudice,
ideology, and the scapegoating ofjews. In L. S. New111_an & R. Erber (Eds.),
Understanding genocide: TIle social psyc1lOlogy if the Holocaust (pp. 113-142). New York:
Oxford University Press.
Glick provides an excellent explanation of the psychological underpinnings of
Guimond, S., & Dambrun, M. (2002). When prosperity breeds intergroup hostility: The
effects of relative deprivation and relative gratification on prejudice. Personality and
Sodal Psychology Bulletill, 28, 900-912.
Guimond and Dambrun discuss the counterintuitive finding that relative
gratification, as well as relative deprivation, can lead to prejudice.
366 CHAPTER 9
Walker, 1., & Smith, H. J. (2002). Fifty years of relative deprivation research. In
1. Walker & H. J. Smith (Eds.), Relative deprivation: SpecificatioN, development, and
integration (pp. 1-9). New York: Cambridge University Press.
This chapter provides a historical overview of relative deprivation theory. Other
chapters in the book discuss the current status of theory, including its
application to prejudice and discrimination.
Integrated Threat Theory
Stephan, W. G., & Stephan, C. W. (2000). An integrated threat theory of prejudice.
In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing prejudice altd discrimination (pp. 23–46). Mahwah,
This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of Stephan and Stephan’s
Riek, B. M., Marna, E. W., & Gaertner, S. L. (2006). Intergroup threat and outgroup
attitudes: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10,
The authors review the literature supporting integrated threat theory and offer
suggestions for future research.
Hate Group Membership
BIee, K. M. (2002). Inside organized racism: Women in the hate movement. Berkeley:
University of Califomia Press.
Ezekiel, R. S. (1995). 1he racist mind: Portraits if American l1eo~Nazis and Klansmen.
New York: Penguin.
Ezekiel, R. S. (2002). An ethnographer looks at neo-Nazi and Klan groups: The Racist
Mind revisited. American Behavioral Scientist, 46,51-71.
Blee (2002) and Ezekiel (1995) provide excellent ethnographic studies of hate
group members that provide a good “feel” for what the people are like. Ezekiel
(2002) summarizes his 1995 findings and ties them in with more recent research.
group (or fraternal)
personal (or egoistic)
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF PREJUDICE 367
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW AND DISCUSSION
1. Describe the realistic conflict theory of prejudice.
2. Using Table 9.1 as a guide, describe how intergroup conflicts now taking
place in various parts of the world fit Duckitt’s model.
3. Describe the processes by which social identity can lead to prejudice on the
one hand or to tolerance on the other hand. Illustrate your explanation with
examples from your own experience.
4. Describe the factors that influence the degree of identification one feels with
5. Explain the factors that influence self-categorization. In what ways is
self-categorization similar to and different from the social categorization of
others discussed in Chapter 4?
6. Explain optimal distinctiveness theory. What shortcomings of selfcategorization
theory does it address?
7. What are chronic social identities? Which of your social identities would
you describe as chronic?
8. Explain the difference between ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation.
Why is this distinction important?
9. According to the model of vicarious retribution, what conditions would
detennine whether a gang member responded to an act of violence against a
fellow gang member?
10. Describe the relarive deprivation theory of prejudice.
11. How can feelings of relative gratification cause prejudice?
12. Think back to the theory of modem-symbolic prejudice described in
Chapter 6. How are feelings of relative deprivation related to that fonn
13. What is scapegoating? Describe the frustration-aggression-displacement and
ideological theories of scapegoating. What characteristics make a group
vulnerable to scapegoating?
14. Describe some current examples of scapegoating. How well do the
scapegoated groups fit the profile of vulnerability to scapegoating? Which
theory better explains each example?
15. Explain how integrated threat theory links realistic conflict theory,
social identity theory, and relative deprivation theory. How are
these theories related to social dominance theory, described in
16. What are hate groups? What psychological functions does hate group
17. How are hate group members recruited? What factors make a person
vulnerable to recruitment by hate groups?
368 CHAPTER 9
18. Describe the process of socializing a hate group nlember. What are the
QutcOlnes of the socialization process?
19. What factors motivate people to leave hate groups?
20. Describe how hate groups exploit the processes described earlier in the
chapter (such as realistic group conflict, social identity, relative depti.vation,
and so forth) to recruit and socialize new members.
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