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Social Conflict, Harmony, and Integration

Part Three. Social Psychology

  1. John F. Dovidio PhD1,
  2. Samuel L. Gaertner PhD2,
  3. Victoria M. Esses PhD3,
  4. Marilynn B. Brewer PhD4

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/0471264385.wei0520

Handbook of Psychology

Handbook of Psychology

How to Cite

Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., Esses, V. M. and Brewer, M. B. 2003. Social Conflict, Harmony, and Integration. Handbook of Psychology. Three:20:485–506.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Colgate University, Department of Psychology, Hamilton, New York

  2. 2

    University of Delaware, Department of Psychology, Newark, Delaware

  3. 3

    University of Western Ontario, Department of Psychology, London, Ontario, Canada

  4. 4

    The Ohio State University, Department of Psychology, Columbus, Ohio

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


This chapter examines psychological perspectives on intergroup relations, their implications for reducing bias and conflict, and their potential applications for enhancing social integration. Psychological research on social conflict, harmony, and integration has adopted one of two general perspectives. One perspective places an emphasis on functional relations between groups, typically pointing to competition and consequent perceived threat as a fundamental cause of intergroup prejudice and conflict (e.g., realistic group conflict theory). Another approach focuses on the roles of social categorization and collective identity, indicating that whereas different group identities tend to promote conflict, a common ingroup identity promotes harmony (e.g., social identity theory). Although functional and social categorization theories propose different psychological mechanisms, these approaches offer complementary rather than necessarily competing perspectives. For example, within the context of the Contact Hypothesis, appropriately structured intergroup contact can reduce bias and conflict by creating cooperative relations between groups while producing more individuated and personalized perceptions of others (decategorization) or creating a shared sense of identity (recategorization). Pragmatically, understanding the nature of bias and the processes that underlie it can suggest ways that these forces can be harnessed and redirected to promote social harmony.


  • contact hypothesis;
  • cooperation;
  • discrimination;
  • group conflict;
  • intergroup bias;
  • prejudice;
  • social categorization;
  • social conflict