Introduction to Sociology
Professor Deborah Carr
Monday March 10, 2010
I. How Does Racism and Intergroup Conflict Arise?
A. Socialization theories
1. Racism is learned. The main explanations given are through socialization,
typically through parents or media. Parents’ attitudes toward persons of different races
and ethnic groups are a very powerful predictor of children’s own attitudes. Again, the
socialization process may be subtle or intentional - it can be as direct as parents uttering
racist beliefs, or something as subtle as a mother clutching her purse when members of a
different ethnic group walk past her on the street. Whether a child learns by observation
or by rewards for reiterating his/her parents beliefs, the beliefs to tend to get transmitted
from parent to child. Importantly, influences like the media or peer group may either
reinforce or reverse these beliefs.
B. Realistic group conflict
1. This theory says that prejudice is the outcome of direct competition over
valued, but limited resources.
2. Experimental data: - Sherif camp study is perhaps the most famous social
psychological study of intergroup conflict. In the summer of 1954, 22 11-year old boys
arrived by bus at a campsite in Robbers Cave, OK. They were told they were going to
participate in a three-week summer camp, although the camp setting was actually a field
experiment conducted by Sherif and colleagues. The boys were from middle-class, white
backgrounds and were screened beforehand to ensure that they were of average or above
intelligent, and they did not have personality disorders. At the beginning of camp, the
boys were arbitrarily assigned to two groups. The two groups arrived at camp on separate
buses, and were assigned to separate cabins. The experimenters made sure to keep the
members of the two groups apart from one another. To strengthen the in-group
allegiances, the boys were made to perform cooperative tasks, and were given team
names (the Rattlers and the Eagles).
In the second week of camp, the experimenters introduced the two groups to one
another, but did so under the condition of intergroup competition, primarily in the form of
competitive sports. The hostilities that developed, however, expanded far beyond the
playing field. The groups destroyed each others’ property, called each other names, and
engaged in physical fights. In the meantime, cohesion within
the groups increased, with
both groups offering to forego fun activities if it involved interactions between the
3. Scapegoating theories: Scapegoat theory says that vulnerable people
view even lower status persons as the source of their problems, and often perceive that
the other group is in direct competition with them for scarce resources (e.g., students who
get rejected from college, and ‘blame’ students of color and affirmative action programs).
i. Example: Vince Chin murder