Realistic conflict theory

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Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT), or Realistic Group Conflict Theory (RGCT) is a social psychology model of intergroup conflict.[1] RCT offers an explanation for feelings of prejudice and discrimination toward other groups; people tend to dislike members of an outgroup seen as competing with their own group for needed resources.[2]
The theory explains how intergroup hostility can arise as a result of conflicting goals and competition over limited resources.[3][4] Groups may be in competition for a real or perceived scarcity of resources such as money, political power, military protection, or social status.[3] Feelings of resentment can arise because groups see the competition over resources as having a zero-sums fate, in which only one group is the winner and the other, loses.[5] The length and severity of the conflict is determined by the perceived value and shortage of a given resource. According to RCT, positive relations can only be restored if superordinate goals are in place.[3]



[edit] Conception

[edit] History of the Theory

The theory was officially named by Donald Campbell, but has been articulated by others since the middle of the 20th century.[6][7] In the 1960s, Donald T. Campbell recognized the tendency of social psychologists to reduce all human behavior to hedonistic goals.[6] He criticized psychologists like John Thibaut, Harold Kelley, and George Homans, who emphasized theories that place food, sex, and pain avoidance as central to all human processes.[6] Campbell believed that these social exchange theorists oversimplify human behavior, incorrectly likening interpersonal interaction to animal behavior.[6] According to Campbell, hedonistic assumptions do not adequately explain intergroup relations. Similarly, other researchers recognized a problem in the psychological understanding of intergroup behavior.[8][9] For example, Sherif disapproved of the frustration-aggression postulates, authoritarian personality theory, and the contact hypothesis, which he notes overlook the importance of the collective process.[10][9][3] Sherif notes that these approaches ignore the essence of social psychology and the importance of interchanges between groups.[8] RCT takes into account the sources of conflict between groups, incompatible goals, and competition over limited resources.[6] RCT also suggests that hostility is aimed at the source of threat to tangible resources and can be contrasted to other theories of intergroup relations such as symbolic racism, the social identity theory, and the scapegoat theory of prejudice.[11] he Robbers Cave Experiment by Muzafer Sherif represents one of the most widely known demonstrations of RCT.[2]

[edit] Supportive Research

[edit] Robbers Cave Study

Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Experiment was conducted over three weeks in a 200 acre summer camp, in Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma, the focus being intergroup behavior. Researchers covertly posed as camp personnel, observing 22 eleven and twelve year old boys who had never met and had comparable backgrounds. [9][4] His research provides a clear example of the principles of realistic conflict theory.
The experiment was divided into three stages:[9] The first was “ingroup formation”, where upon arrival the boys were split into two groups based on similarities and were unaware of the other groups’ presence. Leaders naturally emerged for each group. The second phase was the “friction phase” in which the groups were entered in competition with one another in various camp games, valued prizes being rewarded to the winner. Both groups developed negative attitudes and behavior towards the outgroup. The third and final stage was the “integration stage”. This stage encouraged reduced tensions through teamwork driven tasks that required intergroup cooperation.

Sherif made several conclusions based on the three-stage Robbers Cave Experiment.[9][4] First, he determined that since participants were chosen because of their similarities, individual differences are not necessary or responsible for the rise of intergroup conflict. Sherif also said that hostile and aggressive attitudes toward an outgroup arise when groups compete for resources that only one group can attain.[8] Further, Sherif concluded that contact with an outgroup is an insufficient condition to reduce negative attitudes.[9] Finally, he said that friction between groups can be reduced and positive intergroup relations achieved, only in the presence of superordinate goals, which promotes united, cooperative action.[4]

[edit] Extensions and Applications

[edit] Implications on Diversity and Integration

RCT offers an explanation for negative attitudes toward racial integration and efforts to promote diversity.[5] According to the Michigan National Election Studies survey, most whites held negative attitudes toward school districts' attempts to integrate schools via school busing in the 1970s.[12] A general attitude of blacks presenting a realistic threat to whites prevailed in the surveys as an explanation for white opposition to busing integration. Thus, contempt towards racial integration is due to a perception of blacks as a danger to valued lifestyles, goals, and resources, rather than symbolic racism or prejudice attitudes formulated during childhood.[3][12]

Competition over limited resources in communities also presents the potential for harmful consequences in establishing successful organizational diversity.[7] In the workplace, increased racial heterogeneity among employees is associated with more job dissatisfaction among majority members.[13] Since organizations are embedded in the context of the communities to which their employees belong, the racial makeup of employees' communities affect attitudes toward diversity in the workplace.[7][14] As racial heterogeneity increases in a white community, white employees are less accepting of workplace diversity.[7] RCT provides a good explanation of this pattern; in communities of mixed races, members of minority groups are seen as competing for economic security, power, and prestige with the majority group.

RCT can help explain discrimination against different ethnic and racial groups.[11] Cross-cultural research shows that violence between different groups escalates in correlation to shortages in resources.[5] The belief that resources are limited and only available for possession by one group leads to attempts to remove the source of competition.[11] Competition can be removed by increasing the competitiveness of ones own group (e.g. skill training), decreasing the competitiveness of the outgroup (e.g. expressing negative attitudes), or by decreasing proximity to the outgroup (e.g. denying immigrant access).

[edit] An Extension of Realistic Conflict Theory

Realistic Conflict Theory originally only described the implications of competition between two groups of equal status. John Duckitt suggests that the theory be expanded to include competition between groups of unequal status. Duckitt created a scheme of types of realistic conflict and the resulting patterns of prejudice.

Duckitt points out that two types of conflict are based on direct ingroup competition. The first is ‘competition with an equal group’ and is explained by realistic conflict theory. Group-based threat leads ingroup members to feel hostile towards the outgroup which can lead to conflict as the ingroup focuses on acquiring the resource. The second type of conflict is ‘domination of the outgroup by the ingroup.’ This occurs when the ingroup and outgroup do not have equal status or a conflict is won during the initial competition. If domination occurs, there are two responses the subordinate group may have. One is stable oppression, in which the subordinates accept the dominating group’s attitudes on some focal issue and sometimes, deeper values. The subordinates submit to the dominant group to avoid further conflict. The second response that may occur is unstable oppression. This occurs when the subordinate group rejects the lower status thrust upon them, and sees the dominating group as oppressive.[15]

The dominant group then may view the subordinates’ challenge as either justified or unjustified. If it is seen as unjustified, the dominant group will likely respond to the subordinates’ rebellion with hostility. If the subordinates’ rebellion is viewed as justified, the subordinates are given the power to demand change. An example of this would be the eventual recognition of the civil rights movement in the 1960s in the United States.[16][17][18]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sedanius, J., & Pratto,F. (1999). Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 17-18. ISBN 0-521-80540-6. 
  2. ^ a b Whitley, B.E., & Kite, M.E. (2010). The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Jackson, Jay W (1993). "Realistic group conflict theory: A review and evaluation of the theoretical and empirical literature". Psychological Record 43 (3): 395-415. 
  4. ^ Sedanius,J. & Pratto, F. (1999). Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression.. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 17-18. 
  5. ^ a b c Baumeister, R.F., & Vohs, K.D. (2007). "Realistic Group Conflict Theory". Encyclopedia of Social Psychology 2: 725-726. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Campbell, D.T. (1965). Ethnocentric and other altruistic motives.. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Pres. pp. 283-311. 
  7. ^ a b c d Brief, Arthur P.; Umphress, E.E., Dietz, J., Butz, R., Burrows, J., & Schoelten, L. (2005). "Community Matters: Realistic group conflict theory and the impact of diversity". Academy of Management Journal 48 (5): 830-844. 
  8. ^ a b Sherif, Muzafer (1966). In common predicament: Social psychology of intergroup conflict and cooperation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  9. ^ a b Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W., & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The robbers cave experiment. Norman, OK: The University Book Exchange. 
  10. ^ Faris, R.E.L. (1962). Interaction levels and intergroup relations.. New York: Wiley. pp. 24-25. 
  11. ^ a b c Esses, V.M., Jackson, L.M., & Armstrong, T.L. (1998). "Intergroup competition and attitudes toward immigrants and immigration: An instrumental model of group conflict". Journal of Social Issues 54 (4): 699-724. 
  12. ^ a b Bobo, Lawrence (1983). "Whites' Opposition to Busing: Symbolic Racism or Realistic Group Conflict?". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45 (6): 1196-1210. 
  13. ^ Tsui, A.S., Egan. T.D.,& O'Reilly, C.A. (1992). "Being Different: Relational Demography and Organizational Attachment". Administrative Science Quarterly 37 (4): 549-579. 
  14. ^ Scott, W.R. (1992). Organizations: Rational, natural, and open systems.. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
  15. ^ Duckitt, J. (1994). The social psychology of prejudice. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  16. ^ sheriff,M.(1996).In common predicament:Social psychology of Intergroup conflict and cooperation.NewYork:Houghton Mifflin.
  17. ^ Allport, G.W.(1954).The nature of prejudice.Cambridge,MA:Addison-Wesley.
  18. ^ Brewer, M.B.&Campbell,D.T.(1976).Ethnocentrism and intergroup attitudes: East African evidence.Beverly Hills,CA:Sage.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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