Discrimination is a highly contentious issue in our contemporary society, and is still not a thoroughly understood phenomenon, despite extensive and illuminating psychological research. The question acknowledges that there is a place for competition in the creation of inter-group discrimination, in some instances leading to hostility and aggressive behaviours, but how much is competition responsible for such social phenomena? Furthermore, surely there are other factors, which also act as a catalyst for discrimination. However, what does 'competition' actually refer to? Is it the dispute over real resources, as Sherif (1953) argues, or more abstract notions such as honour, respect and the like.
[...] This raises issue with the theory due to its ambiguity surrounding the actual basis for inter-group discrimination, is it necessary that all real conflicts are over such concrete things like political power, land or money? ‘Perhaps, instead [one] could derive from perceived conflicts of interest of some kind, or even, merely from a competition over some rather less tangible assets such as prestige, or be the winner'. (Brown, 1995.p169). This observation of Brown's raises two issues. Firstly, Sherif is particularly vague concerning the notion of competition being based on criterion other than real resources, and so he does not explain all types of inter-group phenomena. [...]
[...] in-group all exhibit positive characteristics, whereas all out-groups are untrustworthy and demand suspicion), are in fact correct in their explanations of inter-group conflict.' Conclusion So, I argue in conclusion that competition is an integral condition for inter-group discrimination on the basis of what I have read. Tajfel's minimal group paradigm can be seen to potentially have implicit competitive undertones, and although the Sherif experiments support my argument, I feel that competition is not always over real and tangible resources, but can be over the social identity of the group as a whole and how valued they feel in society or not. [...]
[...] Sherif argued that competition was necessary for inter-group discrimination to occur, so imposed a ‘zero-sum goal' of trophies, knives and medals, which, of course, only one group could achieve. In brief, there was a rapid deterioration in behaviour in the boys, which soon turned to intense conflict, but I shall return to phase two momentarily. Finally, in order to calm the somewhat hostile situation, Sherif instigated a ‘super ordinate goal'; a goal, which both the groups desire to achieve, yet cannot do so without the assistance of the other group. [...]
[...] However, a question begs to be asked: does the establishment of positive distinctiveness and social identity theory explain the persistent tendency for people to display inter-group discrimination?' Personally, it is at this point I feel that the condition of competition again raises its head. Abrams & Hogg (1988) noted that people show inter- group discrimination in order to enhance their social identity. Furthermore, low self-esteem causes inter-group discrimination to in fact rise, in order to attain ‘normal' levels of self-concept and esteem. [...]
[...] And so, mere act of allocating people into arbitrary social categories is sufficient to elicit biased judgements and discriminatory behaviour.' (Tajfel, 1982) So, with regards to our question, considering the substantial amount of support for the Minimal Group Paradigm, it appears competition is not required for inter-group discrimination. It is in fact quite powerful that competition is indeed not a factor, since the consistent in-group bias may in fact be at a biological and cognitive level. It is an automatic cognitive process, which one cannot control. [...]
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