SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References

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.

Why are some people prejudiced while others are more tolerant? Answering this question has generated much theory and research in social psychology and the social sciences more generally. An argument is that by understanding a person's particular personality, genetic make-up (e.g. temperament) and/or childhood learning and socialization, it is possible to explain why he or she holds particular social and political attitudes including prejudice. Following the work by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950), initial interest was on the role of authoritarianism, dogmatism and cognitive style (i.e. metal rigidity, toughmindedness), but currently the focus is on social dominance orientation (SDO, e.g. Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA, e.g. Altemeyer, 1988). The central thesis here is that, there is a reasonably direct relationship between people's psychology as individuals and prejudice.

RWA is understood as an individual factor, “a personality variable, a “trait” if you like” (Altemeyer, 1988, p. 3) that stems from social learning and cultural socialization and is relatively stable within a person by early adulthood. It characterizes those people who will submit to authority, who are aggressive towards socially sanctioned minority groups and who adhere to established social conventions and beliefs. Those high in authoritarianism have been found to hold punitive attitudes towards law-breakers to support the death penalty to endorse traditional roles for women and to be more prejudiced towards minority group members.

SDO is the psychological component of social dominance theory (SDT) and embodies a generalized orientation towards, and desire for, unequal relations between salient groups, regardless of whether one's own group is dominant or subordinate. SDO is argued to be multiply determined and relatively stable. It is influenced by temperament, personality and socialization experiences as well as social context, group position and gender, and as such is not only a product of certain hierarchical relationships among groups, but is also a partial cause of those relationships (Pratto, Sidanius, & Levin, 2006). In terms of its predictive power, SDO is considered to be a ‘ubiquitous motive driving most group-relevant social attitudes and allocative decisions’ (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p. 57). Accordingly, those high in SDO should express more prejudice towards low status group members and to some degree endorse measures that maintain dominant–subordinate hierarchical structures. A particular focus of SDT that differentiates it from the more traditional personality analysis is its emphasis on the interaction between the SDO personality and social structural factors (Sidanius, Pratto, van Laar, & Levin, 2004; but see Rubin & Hewstone, 2004).

Despite the volume of research suggesting a relationship between traditional personality variables (e.g. authoritarianism) and prejudice, a number of problems with the analysis have been identified. It has been argued that personality-based explanations: (a) tend to ignore the role that group memberships and intergroup relations play in shaping prejudiced attitudes (e.g. Billig, 1976; Duckitt, 1994; Duckitt, Wagner, du Plessis, & Birum, 2002; Pettigrew, 1958; Sherif, 1967; Tajfel & Turner, 1979); (b) cannot account for the large-scale uniformity in prejudice amongst members of certain groups and the way prejudice can increase or decrease within such groups over reasonably short time periods (e.g. Sherif, 1967) and (c) may redescribe the current reality of intergroup relations and collective understandings of those relationships rather than being measures of an individual psychological cause or drive for such structures (e.g. Billig, 1976; Duckitt, 1994; Duckitt et al., 2002; Lehmiller & Schmitt, in press; Reynolds, Turner, Haslam, & Ryan, 2001; Reynolds & Turner, 2006; Schmitt, Branscombe, & Kappen, 2003; Stellmacher & Petzel, 2005; Turner, Reynolds, Haslam, & Veenstra, 2006). A common theme, then, is that people's group memberships and associated social norms tend to be overlooked within the personality account of prejudice and that individual differences may reflect the nature of intergroup relations rather than the other way around.

The contrasting viewpoint is apparent in social identity theory and self-categorization theory (the social identity perspective, see Turner & Reynolds, 2001) where there is an explicit focus on the role played by group memberships and intergroup relations in shaping people's attitudes, beliefs and values. These theories argue that people can define themselves as either individuals in terms of their difference from others (i.e. ‘I’ and ‘me’ – personal identity) or group members where their similarities and commonalities with others become salient (i.e. ‘we’ and ‘us’ – social identity).

When a person's social identity becomes salient, there are increased perceptions of interchangeability between oneself and like-minded others – in-group members – which provides the basis for cooperation and coordinated action in achieving shared goals and interests. Moreover, sharing a social identity allows other in-group members to become a viable source of information about social reality, thus making possible processes of mutual social influence and persuasion (Turner, 1991; Turner & Oakes, 1989). Within self-categorization theory, social identity salience and processes of social influence are important because they locate the self within, and connect the self to, broader social forces. Through an analysis that recognises both the personal and social self it is possible to understand how societal factors come to impact on an individual's immediate attitudes and actions.

Shifts in the salience of a particular identity or self-categorization changes the ‘lens’ so to speak, through which the perceiver sees the world and makes sense of it. As the vantage point of the perceiver varies (e.g. an individual, Australian, academic, employee) so to can his or her cognitions, evaluations, judgments and emotional responses. People's psychology (their attitudes, behaviour, cognition) when they are responding in terms of their personal identity and interpersonal differences from others (i.e. in terms of individual personality) can be qualitatively different from when they respond when a particular group-based social identity is salient. There is now a large body of work that demonstrates this psychological discontinuity between people acting as individuals and those acting as group members – the so called discontinuity hypothesis (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987; see Onorato & Turner, 2002 for a review).

One relevant series of studies is the minimal group experiments by Tajfel, Flament, Billig, and Bundy (1971) where social categorization and identification produced intergroup behaviour independent of personality and interpersonal relations. Work by Verkuyten and Hagendoorn (1998) and Reynolds et al. (2001) provide other examples. Verkuyten and Hagendoorn assessed participants' in-group stereotypes (related to the treatment of the Turkish minority in The Netherlands) and their individual differences in authoritarian attitudes (10 items based on Altemeyer's RWA scale). The salience of participants' personal or national identity (Dutch) was then manipulated and prejudice towards Turkish immigrants was assessed. In line with predictions, authoritarianism only correlated with prejudice when personal identity was salient. In the national identity condition, prejudice correlated with in-group stereotypes, but not with authoritarianism. Reynolds et al. (2001) manipulated whether people identified as individuals compared with other individuals, as males vs. females, as Australians vs. Americans, and as young vs. older people. Making certain intergroup comparisons and their associated norms, values and beliefs salient affected the relationship between authoritarianism and prejudice towards Aboriginal Australians quite substantially (e.g. r =.89 in the gender condition and r =.01 in the national identity condition; see also Haslam & Wilson, 2000).

The social identity perspective follows in the intergroup tradition of Sherif (1967) and suggests that personality tends to become irrelevant to prejudice where social identity or group membership is salient. This is not to say that group-based categorizations of oneself and others will inevitably produce ethnocentrism, discrimination or out-group denigration (e.g. Reynolds, Turner, & Haslam, 2000; Turner & Reynolds, 2001). The degree to which social identification predicts discrimination and intergroup conflict is influenced by broader shared understandings of intergroup relations. For example, whether there is cooperation or conflict between groups depends on the perceived legitimacy, stability and permeability of intergroup relations within the social system (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, 2005).

It has been difficult to reconcile theory and research concerning the role of group membership in explaining prejudice and discrimination with the classic personality account. Some researchers have suggested that variables, such as authoritarianism and SDO, may affect processes of in-group identification itself (Perreault & Bourhis, 1999; Sidanius, Pratto, & Mitchell, 1994). In other words, an individual who has a certain personality or cognitive style may be predisposed to be effected by group factors in particular ways such that they identify more strongly with relevant in-groups. Along these lines, authoritarians are believed to be people who have an intolerance of ambiguity and perceive the world in ‘black’ and ‘white’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ terms (Brown, 1965). People with such personalities may be perceptually ready to define themselves and others as members of in- and out-groups and differentiate strongly between their own and other social groups (e.g. Duckitt, 1989). Likewise, people who are ethnocentric and believe their groups are superior (aspects of SDO) may be more likely to identify with the in-group and differentiate it more strongly from relevant out-groups.

To date, this possible relationship between personality and in-group identification has been examined using the MGP (minimal group paradigm) because the groups are ‘relatively meaningless’ and lack any ‘concrete reality’ outside the experimental setting (Sidanius et al., 1994, p. 153). In addition, the MGP provides an environment where if such orientations are going to play a role in in-group identification and/or patterns of discrimination, they will be readily observable because other factors are controlled.

Sidanius et al. (1994) measured participants' gender, self-esteem and SDO, and then, supposedly based on their responses to a dot estimation task, classified them as being underestimators or overestimators. The in-group identification measure, comprising one item that assessed the degree to which participants agreed with their classification, was then completed along with a number of measures assessing the perceived relationship between the groups. The main discrimination measure was the differential evaluation of underestimators and overestimators on two positive and two negative traits. For this variable, in-group identification was a significant predictor of discrimination (over gender and self-esteem) as was the interaction between in-group identification and SDO. Those who agreed more with their classification to the minimal group and had high SDO expressed more in-group favouritism. Thus, identification was moderated by participants' endorsement of SDO.1

Along these same lines, Perreault and Bourhis (1999) designed an experiment to explore the role of personality variables in predicting in-group identification and associated discrimination between minimal groups. Personality measures, such as authoritarianism (based on a French Canadian abbreviated version of Adorno et al., 1950, F-scale), ethnocentrism and personal need for structure (PNS), were included as possible individual orientations that influence how people construe their membership of minimal groups and associated discrimination against the out-group. An additional feature of the research was that participants were ascribed to minimal groups (Group K or Group W) or could choose their group membership.

Perreault and Bourhis (1999) found that in-group identification was the only variable significantly correlated with discriminatory behaviour. In addition, while none of the personality variables explained on their own a significant amount of the variance in discriminatory behaviour, ethnocentrism predicted discrimination through in-group identification. Given evidence of a strong correlation between ethnocentrism and authoritarianism, Perreault and Bourhis also argued that if a different measure of authoritarianism had been used, a relationship with discrimination through in-group identification may have emerged.

In summary, Sidanius et al. (1994) demonstrated that in-group identification and the interaction between SDO and in-group identification were important while Perreault and Bourhis (1999) found evidence that ethnocentrism was related to discrimination only insofar as individuals did identify with their minimal in-group. They suggested that if a different measure had been used, the same pattern may have been evident for authoritarianism. There is clearly more work to be done. In particular there is a need to assess systematically whether personality variables do explain why some people identify more strongly with the in-group than others and are therefore more prejudiced.

We conducted two experiments to investigate the independent and interactive relationships between authoritarianism, other personality variables and in-group identification in explaining prejudice. The first aim was to address some of the methodological issues that previous researchers themselves identified in order to ascertain whether personality, in-group identification, or in-group identification in interaction with personality dimensions, would be predictive of discrimination. For this reason, we included more contemporary measures of the personality variables of interest (e.g. authoritarianism), a conventional measure of in-group identification (e.g. Doosje, Ellemers, & Spears, 1995) and an assessment of discrimination through use of the Tajfel matrices rather than evaluative ratings alone (Sidanius et al., 1994).

The second aim was to explore the discontinuity hypothesis. On the basis of self-categorization theory it would be expected that to the degree that personality is related to patterns of discrimination, it should become less so the more one's social rather than personal identity becomes contextually meaningful. For this reason, we adapted Perreault and Bourhis' (1999) design to include a condition where like the original minimal group studies people were allocated to groups (supposedly) on the basis of a meaningful dimension of comparison (e.g. preferences for Klee or Kandinsky, performance on a dot estimation task). In this criterion condition, social categorization is meaningfully correlated with attitudinal similarity. As such, identification should be stronger and behaviour towards the out-group should be explained more by one's identification with the in-group rather than particular personality dimensions (Bourhis, Turner, & Gagnon, 1997; Turner & Bourhis, 1996).

By way of summary, in line with the above arguments, it is possible to identify three main hypotheses. In line with previous work on the MGP, in-group identification should be the most important predictor of discrimination between minimal groups (Hypothesis 1 – H1). Following Sidanius et al. (1994) and Perreault and Bourhis (1999), to the degree that personality variables impact on the pattern of discrimination between minimal groups they should do so through or in interaction with in-group identification (Hypothesis 2 – H2). In relation to the discontinuity hypothesis, if there is a direct relationship between certain personality variables and discrimination between minimal groups, these should be attenuated the more one's social identity becomes salient. As such, while personality variables may predict discrimination in the random and voluntary conditions, in the criterion condition in-group identification should be the strongest predictor and personality less so (Hypothesis 3 – H3).

EXPERIMENT 1

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References

Method

Participants and design

In total, 203 first-year psychology students (54 males, 146 females, 3 unknown) participated in the study as part of their course requirements during scheduled laboratory sessions. The study had three conditions: random, voluntary and criterion, which were manipulated between laboratory sessions (with random assignment of sessions to conditions). Only responses from the participants who were Australian, from an English-speaking background, who did not identify as being aboriginal, and completed all scales correctly (five participants' responses were incomplete) were included in the analyses. Based on these criteria, the sample included 160 participants (42 males and 118 females).2

Procedure and materials

The participants were informed that they were participating in a study focusing on two unrelated questions: (1) how individuals perceive themselves and others, and their attitudes and beliefs about various social issues and (2) how people make decisions with minimal information. Initially, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing authoritarianism (based on the 10-item scale used by Verkuyten & Hagendoorn, 1998 ∝=.71). Once completed, this was collected and a booklet was handed out which contained the following scales: (a) personal need for structure (PNS; Neuberg & Newsom, 1993, ∝=.83); (b) ethnocentrism (five items based on Berry, Kalin, & Taylor, 1977, and adapted for the Australian context, ∝=.65); (c) a filler task which assessed reasoning style and (d) a ‘dummy’ personality variable that included three questions assessing participants' degree of engagement with the laboratory programme and the psychology course as a whole (‘In general, I tend to pay attention during labs’, ‘I am really enjoying this psychology course’, ‘I feel really confident I am on top of this course and understand the information in lectures and labs’). A composite measure of engagement was formed by averaging across these items (∝=.71). The engagement variable provides a basis for comparison with the other more standard personality measures. If it is the case that individual differences of this kind perform as well or better than the other standard personality variables that were included, it demonstrates that although individual differences may play a role, the specific meaning of these relationships should be interpreted cautiously.

After the booklet was completed and collected, participants were informed that they would perform a decision-making task for which they needed to be divided into two groups: Group X and Group Y. It was explained that they would be distributing points, as if they represented money, to anonymous individual members of each group. The participants then were allocated to groups.

Those participants in the random condition were told that group allocation was purely for administrative convenience and on a completely random basis they had been allocated to Group X. Those participants in the voluntary condition were told that group allocation was a matter of personal choice and they were asked to circle which group (X or Y) they wished to belong to. Those participants in the criterion condition were told that group allocation was based on responses from the first questionnaire they completed, and as a result, members of their group had attitudes and beliefs similar to their own. These participants were all informed that they were members of Group X and were told that the purpose of the decision-making task was to look at differences between the groups and to see which group did better on the task and got the maximum points.

After being assigned to groups, participants completed a booklet that contained a manipulation check for participants' group membership, in-group identification measures, the Tajfel matrices (see Turner, 1980), a 12-item measure of SDO and some basic demographics. There were five in-group identification items that required participants to indicate which group they belonged to by filling in the blank spaces and responding on a 5-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree (e.g. ‘I would like to get to know other members of Group ___’, ‘I am pleased to be a member of Group ___’, ‘I prefer being a member of Group ___ than a member of the other group’, ‘I think I would be similar to other members of Group ___’, ‘I think I would feel strong ties with other members of Group ___’). In order to make comparisons with previous research, these items were averaged (∝=.58). The Cronbach's alpha was relatively low irrespective of whether any particular item was excluded from the scale.

After completing the in-group identification measures, the experimenter gave participants detailed instructions for distributing resources using the matrices. Participants then completed 12 Tajfel matrices, each presented on a separate page of the booklet. There are three different kinds of matrices that are designed to assess: (a) parity (P) or fairness and favouritism (FAV); (b) favouritism and maximum joint profit (MJP) and maximum differentiation (MD) and (c) maximum in-group profit (MIP) and maximum joint profit. The matrices consist of two rows of numbers where each pole represents a particular allocation strategy (e.g. parity between groups, favouritism to the in- or out-group, a desire to obtain maximum allocations irrespective of whether the in- or out-group benefits). For each of the matrices, the participant has to decide how to allocate points to an in-group and an out-group member represented only by their group and code number. The two rows of numbers are structured in such a way that it is possible to determine the strategy that is being adopted by the participant (e.g. more parity oriented or more in-group favouring; more in-group favouring or more concerned with maximum allocations to both groups). Each matrix was presented twice with the ascending/descending order of points reversed and the order of the allocation (in-group top row or in-group bottom row) was also counterbalanced (for more details see Bourhis, Sachdev, & Gagnon, 1994; Turner, 1980).

Following the completion of the matrices, participants completed three measures designed to assess the degree to which a group-based categorization was being made: ‘How similar do you think members of Group X are to each other?’; ‘How similar do you think members of Group Y are to each other?’; ‘On average, how different do you think members of Group X are from members of Group Y?’ (on 7-point scales from 1, not at all, to 7, very). Participants also completed a manipulation check to measure how much control they felt they had in determining their group membership (on a 7-point scale from 1, none at all, to 7, very much). Finally, participants completed 12 items from the 14-item SDO5 scale (∝=.86) selected from Pratto (1999, p. 206). Two scale items (10 and 11) were excluded to shorten the scale. Following completion of some basic demographic questions, participants were debriefed extensively.

Results

Manipulation checks

The degree to which participants perceived that they had control over their assignment to Group X or Group Y was assessed using one-way ANOVA. As expected, there was a main effect for group assignment, F(2, 157)=42.26, p <.001, η2=.35. Simple contrasts showed that those participants who chose their group membership felt they had more control over their assignment (M =4.83) than in other conditions (M values: random (R)=1.64, criterion (C)=3.18; t(157)=9.18, p <.001 and t(157)=4.57, p <.001, respectively) and those participants in the criterion condition felt they had more choice than those in the random condition (t(157)=4.49, p <.001).

It was also anticipated that, compared with the random and voluntary conditions, participants would be more likely to define the situation in in- and out-group terms in the criterion condition. In line with predictions, there was a significant main effect for condition on both in-group and out-group homogeneity; F(2, 157)=5.44, p <.01, η2=.07 and F(2, 157)=9.16, p <.001, η2=.10, respectively. Simple contrast revealed that, for both variables, there were significant differences between the mean values in the criterion (M values: in-group = 4.20, out-group = 4.35) compared with the random (M values: in-group = 3.48, t(157)=2.88, p <.01; out-group = 3.41, t(157)=3.88, p <.001) and voluntary conditions (M values: in-group = 3.44, t(157)=2.86, p <.01; out-group = 3.44, t(157)=3.55, p <.001). Similarly, there was a main effect for condition on perceived group difference F(2, 157)=5.81, p <.001, η2=.07. Again, participants in the criterion condition judged the groups to be more different from one another (M =4.08) than in other conditions (M values: R =3.39, voluntary (V)=3.04, t(157)=2.33, p <.05 and t(157)=3.33, p <.01, respectively). Overall, these analyses confirm that the experimental manipulation was successful.

In-group identification

An analysis of the degree of in-group identification revealed differences across the three conditions, F(2, 157)=9.37, p <.001, η2=.11. Participants who believed that groups were formed because of shared attitudes identified more strongly with their in-group (M =3.31) than in the other two conditions (M values: R =3.02, t(157)=4.13, p <.001; V =3.07, t(157)=3.23, p <.001).

The role of individual difference variables in predicting levels of in-group identification was examined using regression analyses. All the individual differences variables (centred) were entered as predictors and in-group identification (centred) was the dependent variable. The model was significant (F(4, 155)=3.19, p <.05). Authoritarianism (β=−0.16), PNS (β=0.13) and ethnocentrism (β=0.11) were not significant but the ‘dummy’ personality variable that assessed engagement with psychology emerged as a significant predictor (β=0.20, p <.05). Those participants who were more interested in psychology, and therefore who may have paid more attention in the experiment itself, were found to identify more strongly with their minimal in-group.

Discrimination between groups

Scores were calculated for each of the Tajfel matrices using the standard procedure (see Bourhis et al., 1994; Turner, 1980). The first step was to investigate whether there was significant discrimination in this experiment. The pull scores for the three discrimination measures – FAV on P, MD on MIP + MJP and FAV on MJP – were compared to a value of ‘0’ (a score that reflects parity) in each condition separately. In each case, there was significant discrimination on the matrices tasks. In addition, a discrimination score was calculated by aggregating scores for FAV on P, MD on MIP + MJP and FAV on MJP. The grand mean on the discrimination measure was significantly different from ‘0’ (t(159)=8.40, p <.001) revealing that there was significant discrimination between groups.

In relation to the group assignment variable, results in Table 1 show no effects for whether participants were parity orientated rather than in-group favouring (P on FAV), or used a joint profit strategy as opposed to maximizing difference (MIP + MJP on MD) or being in-group favouring (MJP on FAV), all F values <1. However, marginally significant effects did emerge for each of the discrimination distribution strategies (FAV on P, F(2, 157)=2.53, p <.1, η2=.03; MD on MIP + MJP, F(2, 157)=2.42, p <.1, η2=.03; FAV on MJP; F(2, 157)=2.85, p <.1, η2=.04). Simple contrasts revealed that, for each of these three discrimination measures, there were significant differences between the random and the criterion conditions (FAV on P, t(157)=2.23, p <.05; MD on MIP + MJP, t(157)=2.07, p <.05; FAV on MJP; t(157)=2.36, p <.05). Participants are revealing more in-group favouritism and mutual differentiation (relative to the other strategies) when their group membership supposedly was formed on the basis of attitudinal similarity.

Table 1.  Experiment 1: Mean scores for in-group identification, distribution strategies and personality scales as a function of group assignmentThumbnail image of
Individual difference variables, in-group identification and discrimination

A group assignment ANOVA was performed on each of the individual difference variables (authoritarianism, PNS, ethnocentrism) and the ‘dummy’ personality variable that assessed the level of engagement with the psychology course. The results revealed no significant effects for group assignment on any of these variables, all F values <1.

In order to assess the role of personality variables and in-group identification in explaining discrimination, a series of correlations were performed. As can be seen from Table 2, when averaging across all three experimental conditions, none of the individual difference variables were significantly correlated with discriminatory behaviour in the matrices task (where discriminatory behaviour is the composite measure of FAV on P, MD on MIP + MJP and FAV on MJP). In fact, the only significant predictor of discriminatory behaviour was the degree of in-group identification (r =.17, p <.05). However, this pattern of correlations varied across the different group assignment conditions, hence, correlations for each of the experimental conditions are also displayed in Table 2. In the voluntary condition, there was a significant correlation between authoritarianism and discrimination (r =.31, p <.01) and in the criterion condition where group-based categorizations were more meaningful, the correlation between identification and discrimination was higher than in the other conditions (r =.35, p <.01).

Table 2.  Experiment 1: correlations with discrimination overall and as a function of group assignmentThumbnail image of

Regression analysis also was used to investigate the possible main and interaction effects associated with personality variables and in-group identification in explaining discrimination. A hierarchical regression was performed where, at the first step, the personality variables and in-group identification (both centred) were entered with the interactions between each of the personality variables and in-group identification entered at Step 2. Both models failed to reach significance (F(5, 154)=1.19, ns and F(9, 150)=1.67, p =.10) but revealed that the strongest predictor of discrimination was in-group identification (β=0.17, p <.05) at Step 1 and the interaction between engagement with the course (our ‘dummy’ personality variable) and in-group identification at Step 2 (β=0.15, p <.01).

Discussion

The first aim of this experiment was to investigate whether personality variables do play a role in explaining discrimination either directly or in interaction with in-group identification. Based on previous work on the MGP, it would be expected that in-group identification would be most predictive (H1). More recent work by Perreault and Bourhis (1999) and Sidanius et al. (1994) suggests, however, that individual difference variables such as authoritarianism and SDO may help explain why some individuals identify more strongly with their in-group and behave in a discriminatory way. Based on these arguments, personality variables should impact on the pattern of discrimination between minimal groups through or in interaction with in-group identification (H2).

A second aim was to examine predictions based on the discontinuity hypothesis where it was expected that any relationship between personality and discrimination would be attenuated the more salient one's in-group identity (H3). To the degree that group membership was more contextually meaningful it was anticipated that in-group identification would be the most important predictor of discrimination. A criterion condition was included where participants were allocated to groups supposedly in the basis of attitudinal similarity (rather than on an explicitly random basis or by their own choice).

With respect to the first aim, there was support for H1 and no support for H2. The correlation analyses revealed that in-group identification was a significant predictor of discrimination between minimal groups becoming stronger under conditions where the in- and out-group categorization was more salient. Regression analysis also indicated that individual difference measures did not directly, or in interaction with in-group identification, significantly predict discriminatory behaviour. While there was evidence that our ‘dummy’ personality variable that assessed engagement with psychology did significantly contribute to the degree of in-group identification, the interaction between these two variables did not impact significantly on discrimination between the minimal groups.

With respect to the second experimental aim, there was evidence of increased in- and out-group categorization in the criterion condition. In this condition both the in- and out-groups were perceived to be more homogeneous and different from each other. As expected, levels of in-group identification and the correlation between in-group identification and discrimination were stronger in this condition. It was not possible, however, to explore the idea that there would be an attenuation of the role of personality variables in the criterion condition because none of the personality variables were strongly or consistently predictive of discrimination in any of the other conditions of this experiment.

In summary, the results indicate that when participants share a group identity (Group X or Y) and this group membership is psychologically meaningful, as was particularly so in the criterion condition, it is this identity that is most predictive of discrimination in the MGP. Traditional personality variables do not seem to be impacting on either identification with the minimal groups or discrimination between these groups. It is identification as a member of Group X or Group Y that is important in understanding the pattern of discrimination in the minimal group paradigm.

One of the limitations of this experiment is that because SDO was assessed after the matrices were completed, it was not included in the analyses of this experiment. We had some concern that because the items of the SDO scale focus on the relationship between groups, it might alert participants to the idea that a central research interest was discrimination. A way to deal with this potential issue is to administer the individual difference measures well in advance of the participants completing the minimal groups task. A second experiment was conducted in order to investigate the role of SDO and the predictions of SDT in more detail.

EXPERIMENT 2

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References

The rationale and predictions for this experiment were similar to Experiment 1. However, the order in which the various measures were completed was changed so that the impact of SDO on in-group identification and discrimination could be assessed. The individual difference measures, including SDO, were completed 3 months prior to other aspects of the experiment.

Through the inclusion of an additional ‘power’ condition, we also used this experiment to investigate in an exploratory way the role of SDO in processes of discrimination. More specifically, the aim was to investigate: (a) one of the original predictions of SDT that there should be a universal human predisposition to prefer hierarchical over egalitarian and more cooperative systems (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, p. 38) and (b) whether those with higher levels of SDO are more likely to endorse hierarchical systems irrespective of their own group holding a dominant or subordinate position in that system (Sidanius, 1993). Most of the work in this area has examined people's attitudinal preferences with respect to an existing hierarchy. We are not aware of any other study that has looked at the relationship between SDO and actual choices in favour of the establishment of a hierarchical system.

Method

Participants and design

In total, 267 first-year psychology students participated in the study as part of their course requirements during scheduled laboratory sessions. The study had four conditions: random, voluntary, criterion and power, which were manipulated between laboratory sessions. Only responses from participants who completed all scales correctly (six participants' responses were incomplete) and could be matched up with their Phase 1 responses were included in the analyses. Based on these criteria, the sample included 222 participants (65 males, 157 females).

Procedure and materials

Three months prior to the main body of the study, participants completed a questionnaire similar to Experiment 1 except that, instead of the Ethnocentrism scale, a 16-item SDO scale (α=.81; SDO6 scale from Pratto, 1999, p. 206) was included. In addition, the ‘dummy’ engagement variable included three additional items (α=.63) that focused more on personal attributes (i.e. ‘I like to get out of bed early and get on with things’, ‘When I do something I like to do it properly’, ‘I am enthusiastic about most things that I do’) and the identification scale was varied (see below). The procedure in the random, voluntary and criterion conditions was the same as in Experiment 1. In the power condition, participants were allocated to groups on the basis of supposed attitudinal similarity as in the criterion condition. After receiving the instructions for distributing resources using the Tajfel matrices, in this condition, participants received further instructions which emphasized that decisions in the matrix task could be made in more or less fair or unfair ways. The participants in this condition were told that the experimenter was interested in their decisions and their pattern of distributions would be used to determine how the rest of the time in the laboratory would be organized.

The participants were informed that, later in the class, there would be some additional tasks to complete, some of which were boring, some of which were more fun and involved supervising other class members (Platow, Reid, & Andrew, 1998). Along the lines of the classic prisoner's dilemma (Scodel & Minas, 1960), they were told that if both groups (X and Y) were fair in the decision-making task, then both groups could decide how to allocate the additional tasks; whereas if both, or just one, of the groups took an unfair approach, then one group (chosen through the toss of a coin) would be given the power to decide how to allocate the tasks. The coin toss to decide which group would dominate the hierarchy was designed to unconfound the actual desire for hierarchy from the desire for one's own group to be advantaged by being in the dominant position.3

Participants in the power condition then completed manipulation checks to ensure that they understood the instructions. Following the instructions for the matrices, participants completed an in-group identification measure which incorporated four rather than five items (α=.78; ‘I identify with other members of Group ___’, ‘I see myself as a member of Group ___’, ‘I feel strong ties with other members of Group ___’, ‘I am glad to be a member of Group ___’). The participants then completed the same matrices as used in Experiment 1. In addition, in this experiment, participants were asked how much they would like to cooperate with members from the other group and how much they would like to compete with members of the other group (on a 7-point scale from 1, not at all, to 7, very much). Other manipulation checks related to their group assignment also were completed: ‘To what extent did you think other members of your group answered the initial social beliefs scale in the same way as you?’; ‘To what extent did you think that your group membership was a matter of chance?’; ‘How much control did you feel you had in determining your group membership?’ and ‘To what extent do you feel that your responses on the decision-making task have an impact on the rest of the lab?’ (on a 7-point scale from 1, not at all, to 7, very much). Following the completion of all items participants were debriefed extensively.

Results

Manipulation checks

In order to investigate whether the different group assignment methods had the desired effect, separate one-way ANOVAs were performed on the manipulation checks. Results confirmed a significant effect for group assignment on perception of chance, F(3, 217)=5.78, p <.01, η2=.07, with simple contrasts revealing that those participants in the random condition did indeed feel that their assignment was significantly more a matter of chance (M =5.68) than those in the other conditions (M values: V =4.83, t(217)=2.25, p <.05; C =4.38, t(217)=3.96, p <.001; Power (P)=4.77, t(217)=2.77, p <.01). Similarly, there was a significant effect for group assignment on perceptions of control, F(3, 217)=45.97, p <.001, η2=.39, with those participants in the voluntary condition reporting that their assignment was significantly more under their control (M =5.33) than those in the other conditions (M values: R =1.35, C =3.16, P =2.80). All the mean values here were significantly different from each other except for the comparison between the criterion and power conditions. However, there was no significant effect for group assignment on perceptions of similarity in initial social beliefs F(3, 217)<1, ns. This finding may indicate that towards the end of the study (where the manipulation checks were completed), participants in all conditions imbued their category membership with social meaning. In addition, there was a significant effect for group assignment on the belief that responses would impact on later tasks, F(3, 216)=3.45, p <.05, η2=.05, with those participants in the power condition (M =4.05) indicating greater perceived impact than those participants in the random (M =3.11, t(216)=3.08, p <.01) or voluntary (M =3.31, t(216)=2.04, p <.05) conditions. Although the criterion mean (M =3.64) was lower than that obtained in the power condition the difference was not statistically significant.

With respect to the degree to which participants formed in-group–out-group categorizations, the in- and out-group homogeneity measures revealed significant differences between responses across conditions (in-group: F(3, 217)=11.75, p <.001, η2=.14; out-group: F(3, 217)=10.74, p <.001, η2=.13). There was greater in-group homogeneity in the criterion (M =4.38) compared to the random (t(217)=4.18, p <.001) and voluntary (t(217)=4.33, p <.001) conditions and between the power condition and the random (t(217)=4.03, p <.001) and voluntary (t(217)=4.21, p <.001) conditions. The same pattern was observed with the out-group homogeneity variable (M values: R =3.32, V =3.25, C =4.20, P =4.39). Again, participants perceived the out-group to be more homogeneous in the criterion condition when compared with both the random (t(217)=3.75, p <.001) and the voluntary (t(217)=3.35, p <.001) conditions and in the power condition when compared with both the random (t(217)=4.58, p <.001) and the voluntary (t(217)=4.04, p <.001) conditions. Similarly, there was a main effect for the group assignment variable on the perceived difference between the groups (M values: R =3.26, V =2.69, C =4.09, P =4.00; F(3, 217)=7.86, p <.001, η2=.10). Participants in the criterion condition judged the groups to be more different than those in the random (M =3.26, t(217)=2.93, p <.01) or voluntary (M =2.69, t(217)=4.09, p <.01) conditions. In the power (M =4.00) condition, there also was greater perceived difference than in the random or voluntary condition (t(217)=2.61, p <.01 and t(217)=3.83, p <.01, respectively).

In-group identification

A one-way ANOVA also revealed a significant effect for group assignment on the degree of in-group identification, F(3, 215)=5.27, p <.01, η2=.07. As expected, identification was stronger where allocation to groups was based on attitudinal similarity. Simple contrasts revealed that identification was significantly higher in the criterion (M =3.14) and power (M =3.22) conditions compared with the random condition (M =2.81; t(215)=2.96, p <.01 and t(215)=3.68, p <.01, respectively). Although there were lower levels of identification in the voluntary condition (M =3.02) compared with the criterion and the power conditions, the differences were not statistically significant.

Regression analysis was used to assess the impact of individual difference variables in predicting levels of in-group identification. The responses on the SDO, authoritarianism, PNS and the ‘dummy’ variable (centred) were entered as predictors, and in-group identification (centred) was the dependent variable. Neither the model (F(4, 205)=1.72, p =.15) nor the contribution of authoritarianism (β=−0.04), SDO (β=−0.02) or engagement (β=0.11) was significant. There was a non-significant tendency for personal need for structure to predict in-group identification (β=0.14, p =.052).

Discrimination

As in Experiment 1, scores were calculated for each of the Tajfel matrices using the standard procedure. To assess whether there was discrimination between groups, each pull score for FAV on P, MD on MIP + MJP and FAV on MJP was compared to 0 (a score that reflects parity) in each condition separately. The analysis revealed that there was discrimination on the matrices tasks. In addition, an analysis of a composite measure of discrimination based on an average of these three discrimination measures revealed that the overall grand mean was significantly different from 0 (t(205)=8.17, p <.001).

In order to investigate the effect of group assignment on distribution strategy, six separate one-way ANOVAs were conducted with the matrix scores as dependent measures (Table 3). Results show that the method used for group assignment had no significant effect on whether participants used a joint profit strategy as opposed to maximizing difference (MIP + MJP on MD) or displaying in-group favouritism (MJP on FAV), F values <1.5, ns.

Table 3.  Experiment 2: mean scores for in-group identification, distribution strategies, relative desire for co-operation and personality scales as a function of group assignmentThumbnail image of

Significant effects did emerge, however, for the use of parity as opposed to in-group favouritism (P on FAV, F(3, 213)=10.08, p <.001, η2=.12) and for each of the discrimination distribution strategies (FAV on P, F(3, 213)=5.16, p <.01, η2=.08; MD on MIP + MJP, F(3, 207)=3.39, p <.05, η2=.05; FAV on MJP; F(3, 213)=3.99, p <.01, η2=.06). From Table 3, it appears that there is more discrimination in the criterion compared with the random and voluntary conditions but that levels of discrimination are significantly lower in the power condition.

Along these lines, for P on FAV, where a lower score reveals greater in-group favouritism (relative to parity) in the distribution of points between the in- and out-groups, simple contrasts revealed that there was more favouritism in the criterion (M =4.39) compared with the random condition (M =6.68; t(213)=2.59, p <.001). There was also significantly less in-group favouritism in the power condition (M =9.19) compared with the random, voluntary (M =5.00) and criterion conditions (t(213)=2.92, p <.001, t(213)=3.97, p <.001 and t(213)=5.15, p <.001, respectively). For FAV on P, where a higher score is evidence of greater in-group favouritism (relative to parity), there was more in-group favouritism in the criterion condition (M =4.28) compared with the random (M =1.61; (t(213)=3.09, p <.01) and power (M =1.17; t(213)=3.36, p <.01) conditions. There also was more in-group favouritism in the voluntary condition (M =3.45) compared with the power condition (t(217)=2.21, p <.05). For MD on MIP + MJP, there was greater differentiation between the groups (relative to maximum in-group and joint profit) in the criterion condition (M =3.55) than the power condition (M =0.89; t(207)=3.06, p <.01). For FAV on MJP, there was significantly less in-group favouritism (relative to maximum joint profit) in the power condition (M =0.89) compared with the other three conditions (M values: R =2.49, t(213)=1.96, p =.05), V =2.92, t(213)=2.02, p <.05; C =3.85, t(213)=3.41, p <.01). In summary, these results reflect higher levels of favouritism and discrimination in the criterion condition with levels dropping off significantly in the power condition.

With respect to participants' willingness to cooperate and compete with the members of the other group, a relative cooperation score was computed by subtracting desire to compete from desire to cooperate. On the resulting measure, a higher score reflects a greater willingness to cooperate. There was a significant main effect for group assignment (F(3, 217)=8.27, p <.001, η2=.10). Simple contrasts revealed that the level of cooperation expressed in the power condition (M =2.14) was significantly different from each of the other conditions (M values: R =0.23, t(217)=4.82, p <.001; V =0.53, t(217)=3.39, p <.01; C =0.95, t(217)=2.84, p <.01). Strong endorsement of cooperation over competition in the power condition is evidence of participants wanting to prevent the introduction of a hierarchical power structure between groups.

Individual difference variables, in-group identification and discrimination

A one-way ANOVA was performed on each of the personality variables (e.g. authoritarianism, SDO) and the measure of engagement. The results revealed no significant effect for group assignment on any of these variables, all F values <1.

Correlations were calculated to examine the relationship between the individual difference variables, the degree of in-group identification and discriminatory behaviour (the composite measure formed by averaging FAV on P, MD on MIP + MJP and FAV on MJP). As can be seen from Table 4, overall, none of the individual difference variables were significantly correlated with discrimination. In fact, the only significant predictor of discriminatory behaviour was the degree of in-group identification (r =.20, p <.01). However, the pattern of correlations varied quite substantially across the different group assignment conditions, hence, correlations were also calculated as a function of each of the experimental conditions (see Table 4). As in Experiment 1, the correlation between in-group identification and discrimination was the strongest in the criterion condition (r =.42, p <.01). There was also a significant correlation between authoritarianism and discrimination in the random condition (r =.24, p <.05).

Table 4.  Experiment 2: correlations with discrimination overall and as a function of group assignmentThumbnail image of

Perhaps the findings most of interest given predictions based on SDT are that while none of the individual difference variables were significant in the criterion condition, when a potential power hierarchy was introduced there was a significant correlation between SDO and discrimination (r =.27, p <.05) and a marginally significant correlation between authoritarianism and discrimination (r =.26, p <.10). Given that a similar pattern was observed with both SDO and authoritarianism, these findings were investigated further.

One possible explanation is that in the power condition where there was a very clear shift towards fairness or parity, those participants who scored higher on these scales did not move as far in this general direction. In line with this interpretation, Table 5 shows levels of discrimination as a function of group assignment and whether participants scored below (low) or above (high) the median on the SDO scale and the authoritarianism scale, respectively. As the results described above in Table 3 show, there was less discrimination in the power condition which is reflected in a significant main effect for condition for both SDO (F(3, 195)=5.90, p <.001, η2=.08) and authoritarianism (F(3, 194)=6.15, p <.01, η2=.09). While the interactions were not significant for either variable (F values <1.5), a comparison between mean values in each of the conditions separately does help explain the pattern of correlations. It is only in the power condition that there were significant differences in the levels of discrimination amongst those participants who scored low (M =0.11) and high (M =1.47) for SDO (t(53)=2.01, p <.05) and low (M =0.20) and high (M =1.53) for authoritarianism (t(53)=2.01, p =.05). In the power condition, both low and high scores are adopting a fairer, less discriminatory strategy in their allocation of points between the groups, but within this general shift those participants with higher scores are being relatively more discriminatory.

Table 5.  Experiment 2: discrimination as a function of SDO, authoritarianism and group assignmentThumbnail image of

A regression analysis was conducted to examine the independent relationships between personality variables, and the interaction between these variables and in-group identification, and discrimination. For comparison with Experiment 1 and previous work, an initial analysis included only responses from the random, voluntary and criterion conditions. At Step 1, the personality variables and in-group identification were entered and at Step 2, the interactions were entered. Both models were significant (F(5, 138)=3.37, p <.01 and F(9, 134)=2.37, p <.05) with in-group identification emerging as the only significant predictor of discrimination (β=0.31, p <.001 at both the steps). With responses from all the four conditions, both models were significant. While there was a non-significant tendency (β=0.14, p <.10) for the interaction between personal need for structure and in-group identification to predict discrimination, in-group identification emerged as the strongest and only significant predictor (Step 1: β=0.21, p <.01; Step 2: β=0.23, p <.01).

Discussion

As in Experiment 1, the overwhelming finding is that in-group identification, rather than personality variables alone or in interaction with in-group identification, is the best predictor of discrimination between minimal groups (H1). Regression analyses revealed that: (a) authoritarianism, SDO, PNS and our ‘dummy’ variable were not significant predictors of in-group identification and (b) these individual difference variables did not directly, or in interaction with in-group identification, significantly predict discrimination between minimal groups (H2). The findings suggest that in-group identification is a central factor in understanding discrimination between minimal groups and personality variables are not that informative in explaining such processes.

As in Experiment 1, it was difficult to assess the hypothesis that relationships between personality and prejudice would be attenuated under conditions where in-group–out-group categorizations became more salient (H3). Strong correlations between personality variables and discrimination did not emerge in the random or voluntary conditions, making it difficult to contrast the pattern of responses across conditions. Having said this, as predicted, the in-group–out-group categorization, assessed through judgements of group homogeneity and in-group identification, was stronger in conditions where people were allocated to groups on the basis of attitudinal similarity (in the criterion and power conditions).

In this experiment, an additional condition was included to assess predictions associated with SDO, more directly. In particular, the study was designed to assess: (a) the existence of a general preference for dominant–subordinate hierarchical relations between groups and (b) whether those high in SDO were more likely to endorse such a hierarchy. The results revealed little evidence of a general preference or drive for hierarchical relations between groups. In a context where discrimination on the matrices task would lead to the introduction of dominant–subordinate hierarchy, there was a strong shift towards parity and fairness in allocations and an increased desire for cooperative rather than competitive relations between the groups. In the power condition, despite strong levels of identification, discrimination decreased as participants acted to eliminate the possibility of the establishment of hierarchical relations between groups. In a context where it was uncertain whether one's own or the other group would be in the dominant position, participants chose egalitarianism over the risk of subordination.

This general shift towards fairness or parity was evident for all participants, but it was also the case that in the power condition a significant correlation between SDO and discrimination emerged. Those participants who scored higher in SDO did not move as far towards parity or equality in their distribution of points. Importantly, such action was taken when those participants were aware that discriminatory behaviour would lead to the establishment of a dominant–subordinate hierarchy where their own group would not necessarily be in the dominant position. These results do provide some support for SDT. It is also the case that this pattern of results was only evident in the power condition where participants were informed that their choices were relevant to the introduction or not, of hierarchical relations between groups.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References

In this paper, two studies have been reported which aimed to investigate the direct and interactive roles of personality variables and in-group identification in explaining discrimination between minimal groups. One of the central implications of the minimal group studies (Tajfel et al., 1971; Turner, 1980) was the idea that social identity was a central psychological factor in whether people discriminated or not. These findings, and subsequent theory and research associated with them, focused attention on group processes and intergroup relations rather than personality factors alone in understanding prejudice.

Building on this work, some researchers proposed an alternative route through which personality variables may impact on patterns of discrimination. They suggested that certain personality variables or cognitive styles may predispose people to be more or less affected by group factors (Perreault & Bourhis, 1999; Sidanius et al., 1994). For example, because people high in authoritarianism are more likely to form discrete cognitive boundaries, it is argued that they may be more ready to define themselves and others as members of contrasting groups. In this way, personality variables may explain discrimination through or in interaction with processes of in-group identification.

Based on these arguments, two minimal group studies were conducted to investigate whether it was in-group identification, or personality variables directly, or in interaction with in-group identification, which explained patterns of discrimination. Broadly following Perreault and Bourhis (1999), participants completed a range of personality measures (authoritarianism, SDO, ethnocentrism, PNS, a ‘dummy’ engagement variable); they then were allocated to minimal groups (Group X or Group Y) either on an explicitly random basis by their own choice preference or (supposedly) on the basis of attitudinal similarity. The main dependent variable was the way in which points that represented money were allocated to members of the in- and out-group (Tajfel et al., 1971).

In the second experiment, the minimal group paradigm was adapted to include a condition where the role of SDO and central predictions of SDT could be examined (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). In this condition, participants were informed that their behaviour on the matrices could affect how subsequent positive and negative tasks would be allocated between the groups. If their own and the other group behaved fairly in their point allocations, then both groups could decide how the tasks should be assigned; but if one or both groups behaved unfairly, then one group would be given the power to decide (determined by the toss of a coin). This instruction was designed to separate the desire for hierarchical relations from the desire for one's own group to be in a dominant position.

In both the experiments, the findings are consistent and clear. There was no evidence that traditional personality variables significantly explained the degree to which a person may or may not identify with their group. A ‘dummy’ personality variable, however, that was included to provide a comparison with the more traditional variables (i.e. authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, PNS), was a significant predictor of in-group identification in Experiment 1. This variable assessed engagement with psychology. The finding suggests that those participants who were more interested in psychology (and therefore perhaps paying most attention) identified more strongly with their in-group. With respect to explaining discriminatory behaviour, in both the experiments, personality variables did not directly or in interaction with in-group identification, significantly predict patterns of discrimination. On the basis of these findings, there is no evidence that in-group identification reflects a particular personality or cognitive style or that individual differences are of central concern in explaining discrimination in the minimal group paradigm.

In the power condition, introduced in Experiment 2, the minimal group paradigm was adapted to investigate the central aspects of SDT. Here, we found that there was a general shift away from discrimination indicating participants' preference for egalitarian rather than hierarchical relations between groups. With respect to this movement towards parity, it also was the case that compared with those who had a lower SDO score, those higher in SDO tended not to shift as far resulting in a significant correlation between SDO and discrimination. In line with SDT, those higher in SDO do appear to support more hierarchical group relations and this was the case even though those participants were informed explicitly that their own group would not necessarily be in the dominant position. This finding is important because it helps clarify that SDO does assess support for group-based dominance and is not necessarily tied to one's own group's self-interest (e.g. being in an advantaged or dominant position, see e.g. Sidanius, 1993).

An interesting aspect of findings in Experiment 2 is that there was no general relationship between SDO and discrimination. The relationship was evident only in the power condition where a comparison between egalitarian and hierarchical social structures was introduced. For example, it was only in this condition that those above and below the median in SDO and authoritarianism revealed significant differences in the levels of discrimination. Pratto and Shih (2000) also found a relationship between SDO and implicit group prejudice only under restricted conditions, in their case where there was intergroup threat.

These findings while not supporting the portrayal of SDO as a ‘ubiquitous motive’ or a ‘general desire for group-based dominance’ (Sidanius et al., 2004, p. 848) suggest that, under certain conditions SDO, and perhaps other related variables, are predictive of discrimination. Evidence that SDO and authoritarianism shape behaviour in some situations but not in others, makes it difficult to characterize these factors as personality dimensions in the traditional sense. There is no evidence of a general psychological orientation that shapes social and political attitudes. At the very least, such factors do not seem to predispose individuals in any way to being susceptible to group factors, such as increased levels of in-group identification (e.g. Perreault & Bourhis, 1999; Sidanius et al., 1994).

Following on from this point, and in line with recent work, SDO and authoritarianism may be better understood as representing a set of ideological beliefs that do not affect individual and group behaviour in a generic way, but rather do so most when dimensions related to such ideological beliefs (e.g. egalitarianism) become contextually meaningful or relevant for the perceiver (Guimond, Dambrun, Michinov, & Duarte, 2003; Lehmiller & Schmitt, in press; Reynolds et al., 2001; Reynolds & Turner, 2006; Schmitt et al., 2003; Sidanius et al., 2004; Turner & Reynolds, 2003). Certain social contextual factors (e.g. awareness or salience of group-based hierarchies) can increase the relevance of certain ‘personalities’ which then play a determining role in shaping behaviour. This research suggests that the path forward is to continue to move away from a dichotomy between the personality and the intergroup traditions, and to further investigate the interdependencies between group and personality processes.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References

This research was supported by a Large Australian Research Council grant. We would also like to thank Kris Veenstra for her assistance with data coding, Ken Mavor and Ross Wilkinson for their statistical advice and Susan Johnson for her proof reading of the paper.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. EXPERIMENT 1
  4. EXPERIMENT 2
  5. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  • Adorno, T. W. Frenkel-Brunswik, E. Levinson, D. J. Sanford, R. N. The authoritarian personality New York Harper 1950.
  • Altemeyer, B. Enemies of freedom: Understanding right-wing authoritarianism San Francisco Jossey-Bass 1988.
  • Berry, J. W. Kalin, R. Taylor, D. M. Multiculturalism and ethnic attitudes in Canada Ottawa Minister of Supply and Services 1977.
  • Billig, M. Social psychology and intergroup relations London Academic Press 1976.
  • Bourhis, R. Y. Sachdev, I. Gagnon, A. Intergroup research with the Tajfel matrices: Methodological notes, Zanna, M. P. OlsonJ. M. The psychology of prejudice: The Ontario symposium, Vol. 7. Ontario symposium on personality and social psychology 209232 Hillsdale, NJ Erlbaum 1994.
  • Bourhis, R. Y. Turner, J. C. Gagnon, A. Interdependence, social identity and discrimination: Some empirical considerations, Spears, R. OakesP. J. EllemersN. HaslamS. A. The social psychology of stereotyping and group life Oxford, UK and Cambridge, MA Blackwell 1997.
  • Brown, R. Social psychology New York and London The Free Press and Collier-Macmillan Limited 1965.
  • Doosje, B. Ellemers, N. Spears, R. Perceived intragroup variability as a function of group status and identification, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 31 410436 1995.
  • Duckitt, J. Authoritarianism and group identification: A new view of an old construct, Political Psychology 10 6384 1989.
  • Duckitt, J. The social psychology of prejudice New York Praeger 1994.
  • Duckitt, J. Wagner, C. du Plessis, I. Birum, I. The psychological bases of ideology and prejudice: Testing a dual process model, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83 7593 2002.
  • Guimond, S. Dambrun, M. Michinov, N. Duarte, S. Does social dominance generate prejudice? Integrating individual and contextual determinants of intergroup cognitions, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8 697721 2003.
  • Haslam, S. A. Wilson, A. In what sense are prejudicial beliefs personal? The importance of an in-group's shared stereotypes, British Journal of Social Psychology 39 1 4563 2000.
  • Lehmiller, J. J. & Schmitt, M. T. (in press). Group domination and inequality in context: Evidence from the unstable meanings of social dominance and authoritarianism. European Journal of Social Psychology.
  • Levin, S. Federico, C. M. Sidanius, J. Rabinowitz, J. L. Social dominance orientation and intergroup bias: The legitimation of favoritism for high-status groups, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28 144157 2002.
  • Neuberg, S. L. Newsom, J. T. Personal need for structure: Individual differences in the desire for simpler structure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65 1 113131 1993.
  • Onorato, R. S. Turner, J. C. Challenging the primacy of the personal self: The case for depersonalized self-conception, Kashima, Y. FoddyM. PlatowM. J. Self and identity: Personal, social, and symbolic 145178 Mahwah, NJ Erlbaum 2002.
  • Perreault, S. Bourhis, R. Y. Ethnocentrism, social identification, and discrimination, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 25 92103 1999.
  • Pettigrew, T. F. Personality and socio-cultural factors in intergroup attitudes: A cross-national comparison, Journal of Conflict Resolution 2 2942 1958.
  • Platow, M. J. Reid, S. Andrew, S. Leadership endorsement: The role of distributive and procedural behaviour in interpersonal and intergroup contexts, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 1 3547 1998.
  • Pratto, F. The puzzle of continuing group inequality: Piercing together psychological, social, cultural forces in social dominance theory, Zanna, M. P. Advances in experimental social psychology 31, 191263 New York Academic Press 1999.
  • Pratto, F. Shih, M. Social dominance orientation and group context in implicit group prejudice, Psychological Sciences 11 521524 2000.
    Direct Link:
  • Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., & Levin, S. (2006). Social dominance theory and the dynamics of intergroup relations: Taking stock and looking forward. European Review of Social Psychology, 17, 271320.
  • Pratto, F. Sidanius, J. Stallworth, L. M. Malle, B. F. Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67 741763 1994.
  • Reynolds, K. J. & Turner, J. C. (2006). Individuality and the prejudiced personality. European Review of Social Psychology, 17, 233270.
  • Reynolds, K. J. Turner, J. C. Haslam, S. A. When are we better than them and they worse than us? A closer look at social discrimination in positive and negative domains, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78 6480 2000.
  • Reynolds, K. J. Turner, J. C. Haslam, S. A. Ryan, M. K. The role of personality and group factors in explaining prejudice, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 37 427434 2001.
  • Rubin, M. Hewstone, M. Social identity, system justification and social dominance: Commentary on Reicher, Jost et al. and Sidanius et al., Political Psychology 25 823844 2004.
  • Schmitt, M. T. Branscombe, N. R. Kappen, D. M. Attitudes to group-based inequality: Social dominance or social identity?, British Journal of Social Psychology 42 161186 2003.
  • Scodel, A. Minas, J. S. The behaviour of prisoners in a prisoner's dilemma game, Journal of Psychology 50 133138 1960.
  • Sherif, M. Social interaction: Process and products Oxford, UK Aldine 1967.
  • Sidanius, J. The psychology of group conflict and the dynamics of oppression. A social dominance perspective, Iyengar, S. McGuireW. Explorations in political psychology 183219 Durham, NC Duke University Press 1993.
  • Sidanius, J. Pratto, F. Social dominance: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression Cambridge, UK and New York, USA Cambridge University Press 1999.
  • Sidanius, J. Pratto, F. Mitchell, M. In-group identification, social dominance orientation, and differential intergroup social allocation, Journal of Social Psychology 134 151167 1994.
  • Sidanius, J. Pratto, F. van Laar, C. Levin, S. Social dominance theory: Its agenda and method, Political Psychology 25 845880 2004.
  • Stellmacher, J. Petzel, T. Authoritarianism as a Group Phenomenon, Political Psychology 26 245274 2005.
  • Tajfel, H. Flament, C. Billig, M. G. Bundy, R. P. Social categorization and intergroup behaviour, European Journal of Social Psychology 1 149178 1971.
  • Tajfel, H. Turner, J. C. An integrative theory of intergroup conflict, Austin, W. G. WorchelS. The social psychology of intergroup relations 3347 Monterey, CA Brooks/Cole 1979.
  • Turner, J. C. Fairness or discrimination in intergroup behaviour? A reply to Branthwaite, Doyle and Lightbown, European Journal of Social Psychology 10 131147 1980.
  • Turner, J. C. Social influence Milton Keynes, UK Open University Press 1991.
  • Turner, J. C. Some current issues in research on social identity and self-categorization theories, Ellemers, N. SpearsR. DoosjeB. Social identity: Context, commitment, content 634 Oxford, UK and Cambridge, USA Blackwell 1999.
  • Turner, J. C. Explaining the nature of power: A three-process theory, European Journal of Social Psychology 35 122 2005.
  • Turner, J. C. Bourhis, R. Y. Social identity, interdependence and the social group: A reply to Rabbie et al., Robinson, W. P. Social groups and identity: Developing the legacy of Henri Tajfel Oxford Butterworth Heinemann 1996.
  • Turner, J. C. Hogg, M. A. Oakes, P. J. Reicher, S. D. Wetherell, M. S. Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory Oxford Blackwell 1987.
  • Turner, J. C. Oakes, P. J. Self-categorization theory and social influence, Paulus, P. Psychology of group influence 2nd ed. 233275 Hillsdale, NJ Erlbaum 1989.
  • Turner, J. C. Reynolds, K. J. The social identity perspective in intergroup relations: Theories, themes and controversies, Brown, R. GaertnerS. Handbook of social psychology: Intergroup processes 4 Oxford, UK and Cambridge, USA Blackwell 2001.
  • Turner, J. C. Reynolds, K. J. Why social dominance theory has been falsified, British Journal of Social Psychology 42 199206 2003.
  • Turner, J. C. Reynolds, K. J. Haslam, S. A. Veenstra, K. J. Reconceptualizing personality: Producing individuality through defining the personal self, Postmes, T. JettenJ. Individuality and the group: Advances in social identity London Sage 2006.
  • Verkuyten, M. Hagendoorn, L. Prejudice and self-categorization: The variable role of authoritarianism and in-group stereotypes, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 24 99110 1998.
Footnotes
  1. 1 Such a set of finding is not inconsistent with the social identity perspective (Turner, 1999). Behaviour such as discrimination is argued to be a function of people's psychology as group members and the nature of intergroup relations as they interpret it. To the degree that there are groups within society who believe that all groups are not equal and their groups are superior (i.e. ‘Being on the top is the only place to be’, ‘It is important that our country must continue to be the best in the world’), these beliefs may impact on how they understand the in-group–out-group relationship in the MGP (and elsewhere). Furthermore, when thinking about oneself and others in group-based terms, such beliefs may shape behaviour to a greater extent.

  2. 2 In this and the subsequent study, we did analyse the main dependent measures by gender. Given the small number of males relative to females across conditions, these results should be interpreted with caution. Importantly, there were no significant interactions between gender and the manipulated experimental variable but some main effects for gender were significant. In Study 1, females had a higher personal need for structure than males (F(1, 153)=10.42, p<.01). In Study 2, there were two main effects for gender. In line with previous research, males (M=2.65) were higher on SDO than females (M=2.36; F(1, 210)=3.88, p=.05). Males were also less engaged in their course than females (M values: males = 5.20, females = 5.43; F(1, 214)=4.63, p<.05).

  3. 3 There has been some confusion about this point. Initial writings on SDO (including Sidanius et al., 1994) argued that SDO refers to the basic desire for one's own group to be dominant over, and superior to, relevant out-groups (e.g. Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). In other writing, SDO reflects support for social hierarchy irrespective of own group position (e.g. Levin, Federico, Sidanius, & Rabinowitz, 2002). In this experiment, it is possible to investigate the role of SDO in support or not for social hierarchy unconfounded from a simple desire for one's group to be at the top and dominant.