Does personality explain in-group identification and discrimination? Evidence from the minimal group paradigm


Correspondence should be addressed to Kate Reynolds, School of Psychology, Faculty of Science, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia (e-mail:


The idea that a person's personality can help explain prejudice has a long history in social psychology. The classic counter-argument has been that prejudice is much more a function of people's group memberships and the nature of intergroup relations rather than individual differences. Bringing these two lines of research together, it has been suggested that personality factors may not only affect intergroup discrimination directly, but also indirectly by predisposing some individuals to identify more strongly with some relevant in-group membership. Two experiments were conducted to investigate this possibility. The participants completed various personality measures (e.g. authoritarianism, personal need for structure and ethnocentrism as well as social dominance orientation (SDO) in Experiment 2). They were then assigned to minimal groups either randomly, by choice, or (supposedly) on the basis of attitudinal similarity. In Experiment 2, the minimal group paradigm was also adapted to examine the role of SDO. Overall, there was no evidence of significant relationships between traditional personality measures and either in-group identification or discrimination. In-group identification alone emerged as the strongest predictor of discrimination. There was evidence that those participants who scored higher in SDO were more likely to act in ways that supported the creation of a power hierarchy. The implications for broader understanding of prejudice are discussed.