Billig's Evaluation and Assessment of Discursive Psychological Approach

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TMA 05

Write an essay of 2000 words on the following:
Billig has evaluated Tajfel and Turner’s theorising of intergroup conflict as limited because of the emphasis placed on cognitive processes. Discuss Billig’s evaluation and assess his arguments for a discursive psychological approach.

The study of prejudice and intergroup conflict within social psychology became a priority in response to the experiences of genocide in the Second World War (Dixon, 2007, p.147). Examples of prejudice and the intergroup conflict are used in this essay to find out whether the statement given by Billig that the intergroup conflict mentioned (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) is limited or not because it emphasizes on the cognitive processes. By considering the examples of minimal group paradigm (MGP) studies done by Tajfel and Billig (1973) (cited Brown, 2007, p.146) and Potter and Reicher’s presentations of St Paul’s riots (Potter and Reicher, 1987 cited Phoenix, 2007, p.115-117), it will be shown that a discursive approach to intergroup conflict recognises the powerful role of modern myths and discourses in the maintenance of violence and it is preferable than the cognitive approaches. In his studies of MGP, Tajfel outlined a social cognitive approach to the study of ‘prejudice’ and also refuted the ‘blood-and-guts’ approach. Tajfel proposed that social psychology is not value free; this essay examines the moral and political view of ‘Cognitive aspects’ and also the gaps in his approach to the study of prejudice.

There are two researched explanations of prejudice. They are the Realistic conflict theory and the Social identity theory.  
Tajfel and Turner (1979), did a research on groups in which two groups were placed in a competitive situation where each group was aware that they can only achieve a certain goal when members of the group work together and against the other group, a conflict then raised between them. They were given rewards for working against the other group. Intergroup bias and negativity developed due to competition. To reduce this conflict, a higher reward was set for the groups to work together. This theory of prejudice is known as the Realistic Conflict theory.  

Sherif (1966) carried out the most famous and successful study ever conducted on intergroup conflict to support the realistic conflict theory. This experiment was given the name of ‘Robbers Cave’ experiment in which 24 boys of 12 years of age were taken on a summer camp. These boys were then placed randomly into two groups. During the first week, both groups worked on their own within their group. In the second week, they were introduced to the out-group. They weren’t even informed about any sort of competition between the two groups, hatred was already developed towards the out-group and friendliness towards the in-group. Both groups were given different names and the usual differences. A common and higher goal was set to reduce the conflict between two groups. To achieve the goal, both groups had to work with each other rather than working against each other in the competition.   

To support this theory, Tajfel (1969) conducted a research study to find out how easily people can discriminate against each others that they perceive to be in a different group. The subjects were classified randomly as members of two non-overlapping groups. There was no interaction between the subjects and the subjects had to allocate points, which could later be converted to money to both their in-group and out-group. It was noticed that the subjects allocated more points to their own groups showing in-group favouritism. Despite of giving more points to the in-group, the in-group was losing when it came to summing up the points altogether. This study was known as the ‘Minimal Group Paradigm’ to prejudice. In this experiment, there was no interaction between the subjects, no conflict of interest and also there was no hatred between the groups. Tajfel concluded that these...
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