Fairness or discrimination in intergroup behaviour? a reply to Branthwaite, Doyle and Lightbown



Branthwaite, Doyle and Lightbown (1979) argue that minimal intergroup behaviour represents a compromise or balance between fairness and discrimination, that fairness and discrimination are opposed, generic norms of intergroup relations and that one factor affecting their relative weight is status position since, apparently, different status groups attempt to equalize their positions by varying the degree to which they are fair or discriminatory. This reply reviews evidence to show that minimal groups are never fair but always discriminatory to varying degrees and that a generic norm of intergroup fairness is unnecessary to explain why that discrimination rarely approaches maximum. It also argues that the concept of opposed, generic norms has neither empirical nor theoretical value. Finally, it cites findings that the basic tendency in intergroup behaviour is not to equalize but to accentuate evaluative differences between groups (whether of similar or different status) in favour of the ingroup.