The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior

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The aim of this chapter is to present an outline of a theory of intergroup conflict and some preliminary data relating to the theory. First, however, this approach to intergroup behavior and intergroup conflict must be set in context, in relation to other approaches to the same problem.

Much of the work on the social psychology of intergroup relations has focused on patterns of individual prejudices and discrimination and on the motivational sequences of interpersonal interaction. Outstanding examples of these approaches can be found, respectively, in the theory of authoritarian personality (Adorno et al., 1950) and in the various versions and modifications of the theory of frustration, aggression, and displacement (such as Berkowitz, 1962, 1969, 1974). The common denominator of most of this work has been the stress on the intraindividual or interpersonal psychological processes leading to prejudiced attitudes or discriminatory behavior. The complex interweaving of individual or interpersonal behavior with the contextual social processes of intergroup conflict and their psychological effects has not been in the focus of the social psychologist's preoccupations (see Tajfel, 1981, pp. 13–56, and Turner and Giles, 1981, for more detailed discussions).

The alternative to these approaches has been represented by the work of Muzafer…

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S.Worchel & W. G.Austin (eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (
2nd edn.
, pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall. Published by Thomson Global Rights Group.
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