The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations: Can Research Inform Practice?


  • Marilynn B. Brewer

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    1. Ohio State University
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      Author's Note: This article is based on the 1996 Kurt Lewin Memorial address presented at SPSSI's 60th Anniversary Convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 31, 1996. The presentation was dedicated to the memory of Kurt Lewin and of Donald T. Campbell, who inspired my lifelong interest in the study of intergroup relations.

Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, 1885 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1222. Correspondence may be sent via the Internet to


In the four decades since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregation decision, social psychologists have generally avoided direct involvement in policy making in the arena of intergroup relations. A review of research and theory on the social psychology of intergroup relations since the 1960s is used to argue that it is time to renew such involvement. In recent years, policy making in the United States has shifted from assimilationism to various forms of pluralist or multicultural politics. This paper suggests that the route to multiculturalism may be perilous unless better informed by relevant social psychological research.