Disparities in Judgments of the O. J. Simpson Case: A Social Identity Perspective


  • Victoria Kuhl

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    1. Saybrook Institute
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      VICTORIA KUHL is a doctoral candidate in psychology at the Saybrook Institute in San Francisco, California. Her interests include intergroup relations and intergroup conflict, political ideologies and political violence, modernism and postmodernism, and epistemological and methodological issues in psychological research.

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In this article, social identity theory is used to explore the disparate perceptions of Blacks and Whites regarding the O. J. Simpson case. In social identity theory, the desire to view one's own social group positively is seen as a primary motivation underlying causal attributions for disturbing social events. This work suggests that racially polarized judgments of the O. J. Simpson trial may be related to (a) perceptions of the nature of status boundaries between Blacks and Whites in American society; (b) the relative importance of social identity; and (c) the degree to which the out-group is seen to pose a threat to the in-group's objective interests and identity concerns. Theoretical and empirical work in social identity theory is discussed.