Category Archives: Group/Intergroup Processes

Super(ordinate) identities to the rescue!

 

By Erica Zaiser

For over a month now, 33 Chilean miners have been trapped 2,300 feet underground. Just recently a team of American miners went down to Chile to help the miners get out. This rescue mission is very complicated and may take months to complete. It would have been easy for the American mining team to have felt it was not their responsibility to help; freeing the miners will be a difficult, time consuming, and expensive task. However, the American team seems eager to assist. One reason they might be so willing to help the Chileans is because they identify in these circumstances not as Americans but as miners. Thus, their identities as miners acts as a a superordinate identity linking the American men and the the trapped Chileans together regardless of their different nationalities.

Plenty of research in psychology has shown that when you identify with a superordinate social identity prejudice is reduced and that superordinate identity salience can reduce conflict between groups. In the case of the miners, this feeling of a larger group membership (being a miner) may have helped inspire the helping behaviour of the American miners. In an interview with CNN, one of the American miners explained why it was no question that he and his team wanted to help the trapped Chileans, saying, “We have the ability to help them out, and that’s the whole reason we are here. Miners are miners; it doesn’t matter what country they are from.”

Expert Accounts and Their Ability to Attenuate Loss

Group dynamics can be quite difficult and even then things can go wrong. In such situations experts are given the important responsibility to provide an explanation and in effect attenuate any hard feelings. In these instances, according to Frey and Cobb (2010), individuals in the group consider the level of expertise, specificity or clarity of social account, and most important degree of loss when something goes wrong. Further, and contrary to expectations, experts are not always the best individuals to attenuate negativity, which tends to vary depending on the degree of loss (Frey & Cobb, 2010).

At the macro level, these findings can be generalized to the current economic crisis. For instance, the show “This American Life” recounts the economic meltdown and concludes that governments, companies and a number of individuals are to blame for the economic crisis. Thus, some individuals were affected economically more than others. To address the problem the experts, or those in charge of the economy, are creating their own social accounts to make things better. However, CNN reports that the skeptics or critics are not quite convinced of the expert accounts.

It is in this context of uncertainty or bad turn out that the expert is tasked with attenuating hard feelings individuals may have. Frey and Cobb interestingly found that, “under conditions of higher loss, expertise actually becomes a sizable liability, indicating a boomerang effect”. The researchers explain that the experts, in all their wisdom, should have used their knowledge to stop any mistakes that may have occurred. So whatever social accounts are presented, to some, will fall under the backdrop of the mistakes that caused the economic crisis.

Hear more: Return of the Giant Pool of Money: This American life

Read more: Bad timing could sink the democrats

Frey, F.M. & Cobb, A.T. (2010). What matters in social accounts? The roles of account specificity, source expertise, and outcome loss on acceptance

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A children’s peace force in the Koreas

By Kevin R. Betts

I stumbled across an interesting news story this weekend that detailed a 13 year old Korean American’s ambitious goal to restore peace between North and South Korea. His name is Jonathan Lee, and he is the founder of I.C.E.Y. H.O.P.E., a youth humanitarian environmental group that seeks to convince North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il to plant a children’s peace force in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. Lee says, “What I would really like, if possible, like maybe the children from both countries could be able to meet and play with each other. Like a big playground.”

The contact hypothesis predicts that Lee’s efforts should result in at least some success. In general, the contact hypothesis suggests that interpersonal contact is the most effective way of reducing biases among conflicting groups (Wagner, Tropp, Finchilescu, & Tredoux, 2008). And although Lee’s efforts are geared toward children who may not yet have developed these biases, positive benefits may be seen in the unprejudiced views of these children as they age, as well as the views of watchful Korean nationals who observe this contact. However, for contact to truly be effective, research tells us that it must occur amid certain conditions. First, contact must be between equal status groups. If one country’s children are treated as subordinate to those of the other country, contact is unlikely to yield positive outcomes. Second, the two groups must share common goals. For children, one common goal may be as simple as having fun. For adults, these goals may revolve around reducing tensions among North and South Koreans in later generations. Third, intergroup cooperation must be present. For efforts at peace to be effective, cooperation on both sides of the Koreas is necessary. Fourth, authorities, law, or custom must support this intergroup contact. For Lee’s ambitious goals to stand a chance, both North and South Korean leaders must support his attempts.

The results of Lee’s efforts remain to be seen. Yet, the consistency of these efforts with the contact hypothesis gives us reason to be hopeful. Peace between North and South Korea still remains possible.

Read more:

Korean-American teenager shares ambitious peace plan

Wagner, U., Tropp, L.R., Finchilescu, G. & Tredoux, C. (Eds.). (2008). Improving intergroup relations: Building on the legacy of Thomas F. Pettigrew. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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The Moral Universe of Role Players in Genocide

Just after the Rwanda genocide broke out in 1994, white expatriates were speedily evacuated from the place. Adam Jones (2006) wrote of a video record at the Caraes psychiatric Hospital in Ndera Kigali showing white individuals being evacuated while Hutus were almost outside the gates, and the Tutsis begged the military men for protection. One soldier yelled, “Solve your problems yourselves!”

The UN Genocide Convention has defined genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy in part or whole a national, ethnic racial or religious group as such.” Staub (2000) provides the social context which makes genocide of one group by another likely—difficult life conditions and group conflict. Cultural differences also come to play such as blind respect for authority, inflexible stratification within classes, and a history of devaluation in a group.

Not all members of the dominant group become perpetrators. There were the ‘ordinary Germans’ who did nothing while the Holocaust happened, while there were also countless Germans who defied authority and managed to rescue Jewish families in peril. In a genocide setting, there are the perpetrators, bystanders and rescuers. These categories can also be fluid, as noted by Monroe, when constant bystanders turn into rescuers, or when perpetrators who have engaged in massacres, rescue an individual from the other group. Monroe defines six critical aspects gathered from summaries of reports of these three groups which play a part in the role a group or individual makes: self image, personal suffering, identity, relational identity, integration of values with the individual’s sense of self, and a cognitive classification of the other. Perpetrators may perceive of themselves as victims and justify causing harm to the other group. Bystanders and perpetrators may hold greater value for community, and authority, rather than self-assertion. Personal suffering may also cause a group or an individual to empathize with the aggrieved group, but it may also heighten fear and defensiveness. While cultural and social aspects are important in determining attitudes and behavior, self images can also determine if people will act or remain passive in the face of genocide. Individuals who feel they have control over the situation may be forced to do something about it, as opposed to bystanders who, even if they also empathize with the aggrieved group, may feel helpless over the situation.

Jones A. (2006). Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction

Monroe K. R. (2008). Cracking the Code of Genocide: The Moral Psychology of Rescuers, Bystanders, and Nazis during the Holocaust

Staub, E. (2000). Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation

Photo: “#46/365” by Leonie, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

What is the future of immigrant relations in Arizona?

By Kevin R. Betts

Arizona’s controversial new immigration law is set to go into effect this Thursday. In short, the law requires that police officers determine the immigration status of individuals who are stopped, detained, or arrested when there is reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally. The law also makes it a misdemeanor for legal immigrants to not carry immigration papers. Fearing possible harassment by police and wrongful detention, many legal and illegal immigrants have fled the state since the announcement of the impending law. How might dwindling numbers of immigrants in Arizona impact immigrant relations in the state?

Research in the behavioral sciences has repeatedly shown that to achieve peace between conflicting groups, intergroup contact is necessary. Without frequent intergroup contact, unfounded prejudices often form about members of stigmatized groups. Based on this research, we might expect that fewer immigrants in Arizona will provide fewer opportunities for  contact between immigrants and natural born citizens, and consequently, more unfounded prejudices about immigrants. Indeed, research by Ulrich Wagner and colleagues (2008) provides evidence for this prediction. They looked at how the proportion of ethnic minorities in a region affects opportunities for intergroup contact, and how frequency of intergroup contact affects prejudice. Using East and West German samples, they found that lower levels of prejudice in West Germany could be explained by the larger numbers of ethnic minorities in the region, which allowed for increased intergroup contact.

Will Arizona’s new law be effective in its primary purpose of driving out illegal immigrants? It probably already has, but not without costs for immigrant relations in the state as legal and illegal immigrants flee the region.

Read more:

Hispanics flee Arizona ahead of immigration law

Wagner, U., Christ, O., Wolf, H., van Dick, R., Stellmacher, J., Schlüter, E., & Zick, A. Social and political context effects on intergroup contact and intergroup attitudes. In U. Wagner, L.R. Tropp, G. Finchilescu, & C. Tredoux (Eds.), Improving intergroup relations: Building on the legacy of Thomas F. Pettigrew (pp. 195-209). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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When it comes to road rules France uses a reward approach to driving

One thing police officers can count on is people breaking the law. So in anticipation of seasonal bad drivers traveling across France police decided to ignore this tradition. In a tactical change the police officers are turning to a reward system—that’s right a reward system. Drivers following the rules will be stopped and rewarded. The prize for good driving is a gas voucher.

To explain this good driving campaign, Checkroun (2008) notes that individuals control their behavior when they are likely to lose or gain. However, people who speed usually weigh the consequences of either getting a speeding ticket or arriving somewhere on time and are likely to speed anyway.  Additionally, factors such as “what in-group members identify with” are likely to shape, at times negatively, people’s perceptions of the campaign (Smith & Winnifred, 2009).  So if the drivers view the campaign negatively the act of rewarding good drivers may actually increase speeding drivers. On the other hand, if most drivers view the campaign positively and the incentive is appealing then the campaign will likely succeed.

Hear more: Police reward good drivers

Checkroun, P. (2008). Social control behavior: The effects of social situations and personal implication on informal social sanctions.

Smith, J.R., Winnifred, L.R. (2009). Group norms and the attitude-behavior relationship.

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