Billigs Evaluation of Tajfel Theory of Intergroup Conflict.

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  • Topic: Social psychology, Psychology, Cognition
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  • Published : August 29, 2011
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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. In order to discuss Billig’s evaluation of Tajfels and Turners theory of intergroup conflict we shall firstly consider what is understood about the social identity theory. This will lead to the work conducted by Tajfel and Turner on intergroup conflict concentrating and the main variables of this research. We shall then consider Billig’s evaluation of Tajfels and Turners theory discussing why he feels this approach is limited because of the emphasis placed on the cognitive process. Assessment of his evaluation will be discussed for the use of a discursive psychological approach. Social Identity Theory defines group cognitively- in terms of peoples self conception as group members. A group exists psychologically if three or more people construe and evaluate themselves in terms of shared attributes that distinguishes them from others (Hogg cited in Burk 2006). In the social identity theory the individual has several identities that correspond to different categories of group membership. Depending on these group structures determines the way an individual will act and feel. Social identity is the individuals self concept derived from the perceived membership of social groups (Hogg and Vaughn 2000). The group is viewed as influencing the individual and this can often distort the individuals thinking and result in the production of conflict (Brown 2007). The work of Henri Tajfel concentrated more on the study of intergroup relations. It was Tajfels personal experience as a survivor of the Holocaust that fuelled his passion to understand prejudice, discrimination and intergroup conflict. Tajfel believed that the personality approach was inadequate in explaining prejudice and he used a social psychological approach. This approach was concerned with the relationship between large groups and the social judgements they make in society. His early work concentrated on social perceptions where his research focused on the phenomenon of judgement and categorisation (Brown 2007).

This was evident from the research conducted by Tajfel and colleagues in 1973 the participants show how even when there is no objective basis to the existence of the group or any reason or point to them that they still show favouritism to what they class as the ingroup. During the minimal group paradigm (MPG) experiments conducted by Tajfel and his colleagues in the 1970s the participants were randomly divided into two groups. The participants were then asked to distribute monetary rewards to pairs of other participants. The only relevant information they had about the other participants was which group they belonged too. (Brown 2007)

Tajifel and Turner believed that it was this behaviour from individuals belonging to groups that demonstrated the unique way in which the social identity theory combines the cognitive with the social. They believed that there was significant distinction between personal and social identity, which underpinned the difference between interpersonal situations and group situations (Brown 2000).

Tajfel and Turner (1979) identified three variables whose contribution to the emergence of ingroup favouritism was particularly important. Firstly, the extent to which individuals identify with an ingroup to internalize that group membership as an aspect of their self-concept. Secondly, the extent to which the prevailing context provides ground for comparison between groups. Lastly, the perceived relevance of the comparison group, which itself will be shaped by the relative and absolute status of the ingroup. Individuals are likely to display favouritism when an ingroup is central to their self-definition and a given comparison is meaningful or the outcome is contestable. However Tajfel and Turner argue...
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