14 Intergroup Relations

The French will only be united under the threat of danger.
Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.

Charles de Gaulle, 1951

As a social species, humans strive to establish close ties with one another. Yet the same species that seeks out connections with others also metes out enmity when it confronts members of another group. Intergroup relations are more often contentious than harmonious.

  • What interpersonal factors disrupt relations between groups?
  • What are the psychological foundations of conflict between groups?
  • How can intergroup relations be improved?

Chapter Case Study

General Resources

  • Intergroup conflict in prisons. The State of California, in an effort to reduce intergroup conflict in its prisons, prefers to segregate prisoners by race. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the California Department of Corrections’ practice, questioning whether or not the state’s “asserted rationale for this practice is that it is necessary to prevent violence caused by racial gangs” is valid.
  • Beyond Intractability provides a wealth of information about a variety of topics related to conflict between groups and in society, including prejudice, discrimination, and conflict resolution. See, too, the Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC)
  • The Jigsaw Classroom provides a history of this conflict reduction method, as well as suggestions for its implementation.


Chapter Case: The Robbers Cave Experiment

  • Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment by Muzafer Sherif, O. J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, and Carolyn W. Sherif (1961) describes in detail the well-known study of conflict between two groups of boys at a summer camp.

Causes of Intergroup Conflict

  • “Intergroup Relations,” by Vincent Yzerbyt and Stephanie Demoulin (2010), is a theoretically sophisticated review of the latest theories and research pertaining to intergroup processes.
  • “Beyond the Group Mind: A Quantitative Review of the Interindividual–Intergroup Discontinuity Effect” by Tim Wildschut, Brad Pinter, Jack L. Vevea, Chester A. Insko, and John Schopler (2003) examines prior scholarly analyses of the transformation that occurs when conflict erupts between groups rather than individuals and provides a summary of work on the discontinuity effect.

Intergroup Relations

  • On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years after Allport, edited by John F. Dovidio, Peter Glick, and Laurie A. Rudman (2005), draws together papers on Allport’s insights into the nature of intergroup conflict, with sections pertaining to preferential thinking, sociocultural factors, and prejudice reduction.
  • The Psychology of Stereotyping by David J. Schneider (2004) examines issues of stereotype and bias, as well as a wide variety of cognitive processes that pertain to groups, including perceptions of entitativity, categorization, and ingroup–outgroup bias.

Resolving Intergroup Conflict

  • “Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice,” by Elizabeth Levy Paluck and Donald P. Green (2009) reviews a wide variety of methods used to reduce conflict between groups, with a focus on the rigor of the methods used to evaluate their efficacy.
  • The Psychology of Social and Cultural Diversity, edited by Richard J. Crisp (2010), provides a balanced analysis of empirical studies of intergroup conflict, paired with practical applications for resolving such conflicts. This book is a publication of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), one of the oldest scientific societies devoted to the study of social problems and their solutions.
  • When Groups Meet: The Dynamics of Intergroup Contact by Thomas F. Pettigrew and Linda R. Tropp (2011) examines the history and current empirical status of one of the most tried and tested methods for reducing conflict between groups: encouraging intergroup contact.
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