Geographical Frame of Reference and Dangerous Intergroup Attitudes: A Double-Minority Study in Sri Lanka

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Abstract

An ethnic group can comprise a local majority, but be a minority within a broader geographic region or vice-versa. This situation has interesting psychological implications that may contribute to intergroup conflict. To test some of these implications, an experiment was conducted in Sri Lanka, during a ceasefire in the conflict between the government and Tamil rebellion forces. Participants were 100 Sinhalese students. An experimental manipulation was introduced to make one of two geographical regions salient: either just Sri Lanka (within which Sinhalese outnumber Tamils) or a broader region of south Asia (within which Sinhalese are outnumbered by Tamils). Following the manipulation, stereotypes and conflict-relevant attitudes were assessed. Results revealed that when Sinhalese participants were inclined to think of their group as the outnumbered minority, stereotypic perceptions of Tamils were more demonizing (i.e., depicting Tamils as more malevolent and also more competent), and their conflict-relevant attitudes were less conciliatory. These results have conceptual implications as well as implications for understanding conflict and conflict resolution.

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