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Scapegoating is an extreme form of prejudice in which people blame an outgroup as intentionally having caused their own group's misfortunes, motivating harsh actions against the scapegoated group. Scapegoating explanations have been offered for events ranging from the execution of “witches” in early modern Europe to 20th-century genocides such as the Holocaust. Initial theories of scapegoating relied on Freudian psychodynamics and, later, the frustrationaggression hypothesis. Both view scapegoating as a spontaneous venting of frustrations displaced onto an innocent group, chosen merely because it is weak and vulnerable, making it a convenient target. These theories, however, have difficulty explaining which minorities will be scapegoated and how scapegoating becomes a coordinated social movement that organizes violent actions (rather than a series of unconnected, individual hate crimes).

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