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Intergroup relations in understand individual characteristics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1992 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Intergroup relations started to take form in understanding individual characteristics from the beginning of the twentieth century. The theory of intergroup relations for individual, group, intergroup, and organizational relations defines boundaries, power, cognition, and leadership behaviors. Intergroup relations can be examined from so many different angles. There is even a wide variety of areas of study that have theories into a multitude of issues concerning intergroup relations. However, with the array of research into intergroup relations, narrowing down the topic of research to social psychology, and studying the characteristic, and behavior will be sufficient enough to have a wide range of understanding into group and individual behavior. Certain perceptions can be developed toward a group member or members involving negative or positive intergroup relations, such as: social categorization, stereotypes, intergroup bias, motivations, prejudices, and the functional relationship process within a group.

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What is the meaning behind intergroup relations? Why is it so widely studied in social psychology? These are questions that are asked when analyzing the meaning of intergroup relations. To better understand intergroup relations you first have to dive into where it all began and how the term was discovered. In the 1960s and 1970s social psychologists began studying individuals and social interaction. The study of group dynamics proved to be unsuccessful and expensive, so they decided to research the dynamic on a smaller scale by breaking down individuals rather than placing them in larger social structures for their research. However, this setting failed and the setting became inaccurate. As time went on though, investigation of group dynamics was not a dead topic. The research into intergroup relations was yet again opened up for study in the 1980s and 1990s, but this time investigation into human behavior in a group setting (Johnson & Johnson, 2009). The numbers of issues found were: cooperation, conflict resolution, distributive justice, intergroup relations, and cross cultural interactions. This was a major step in research for group and individual behavior among a group setting. It was then a doorway to other fields for research that ultimately became one of the most dominated areas of study on group dynamics.

Intergroup relations in simpler terms can be described as feelings, evaluations, beliefs and behaviors that groups and members may have toward one another. It can have both positive and negative impacts among those individuals that are among the group or outside their group. The psychological process that is associated with intergroup relations among many is social categorization. This can be described as the personalities, motivations of group members, observations, and the practical relationship between groups and those outside groups.


Social Categorization is a fundamental part of intergroup relations. It involves identifying people that are within your group and those that our outside of your group members. The theory behind social categorization arises from the earlier work of Tajfel of social identity theory. By evaluating an individual’s self-image for which they perceive him or herself; these aspects can also contribute positively or negatively as well when defining their group identity with “we” or “us” as one would with “me” or “I”.

Social categorization is social perception that involves relating to those within your group and discriminating against those that are not in your group. This can cause conflict when one relates with their individual self image to their own group and then having to work with others that are outside of your group members. When relating yourself characteristic and building a trusting relationship with those within your group, members tend to view others more negatively when others from the outside are brought into your group; even if those from the outside have similar characteristics of your own. Once group membership has been established people distinguish individuals who are members as the in-group and those who are members of other group as the out-group (Dovidio, April 21, 1990).

When intergroup boundaries between out-group and in-group have been pronounced people tend to discriminate against the out-group than those in their in-group. People then attribute more strongly to their in-group, and then in turn favor and contribute more toward their group. This is because one’s self-esteem is more enhanced in their own group than in different group memberships. When different groups are not interdependent and group memberships are thrown together; intergroup biases are produced.


Intergroup bias generally defines the members (the in-group) to be more favorable to their own group than to the non-members (the out-group). Bias can cause such behavior such as: discrimination, stereo-typing, and prejudice. This essentially means that trust is turned over to the in-group and not given to the out-group. Individuals tend to give more to their own group than relinquishing those rewards to members of other groups. When social identity is developed among members in a group, it is hard for those members to be able to reach out and identify with outside group members. Once a trust line has been established it is difficult to create non derogation towards the out-group (Dovidio, April 21, 1990).

In order to decrease intergroup bias is to make group members aware of the consequences that surround this behavior. Or by placing groups with other groups on more of a daily basis in order to establish less competition and less trust issues among others. By taking out the element that can cause intergroup bias can help those participating in a group environment to see that each member, whether in their group or others, are key factors to being successful. Being able to observe other’s culture, style and individual character without discriminating from the beginning will help each member find balance in their group and other’s they become involved in. No one group is better than the other. Each has separate tools that can make the ease of intergroup relations work victoriously.


When evaluating group dynamics in intergroup relations one benefit, as stated, is the culture and style that each individual will bring such as: the history and common ancestry, as well as cultural characteristics. But when viewing culture as it relates to intergroup bias, groups that are involved in intercultural encounters tend to run into conflicts due to sociocultural adaptation. The more different the languages, family structures, religion, standard of living and values of the two groups, the more cultural distance there will be between these groups.

With these cultural characteristics and cultural distance that is placed in groups it can have a tendency to take shape as ethnocentrism where one ethnic group view’s their culture as better than another. When ethnocentrism is present we measure our culture based on others of different ethnicity. This is derived from the cultural conditioning that each individual has encountered as children. Children are typically raised to fit into particular cultures and sometimes when individuals are conditioned we see others ethnic background in a more negative light than positive (Messick & Mackie, 1989).

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Groups tend to place distance between those that are of different in cultural background because they perceive them with dissimilarity to their own culture. Sometimes, it is difficult for groups to adapt to those with greater cultural dissimilarities. It is important for those placed in groups to be able to learn more about each individuals own interaction styles, and be able to set structure within those group to have a higher success rate in their groups. When structuring a groups interaction styles and applying everyone’s cultural differences; you can take those differences and use them to benefit a higher success rate. Being able to learn and understand others cultural beliefs and backgrounds can truly add benefit to each group established (Spielberger, 2004).


A group is a social system that involves interaction among members and a common group identity. When discussing group dynamics and how it correlates with intergroup relations, evaluating the conflicts, social categorization, and cultural differences; it is also important to evaluate the fundamental behaviors of group processes as a whole. Groups have a sense of we-ness that helps them to identify themselves as belonging to a certain entity. A group is an important part of sociological concept since it plays such a complex part in everyday life.

Group membership is part of an individual’s social identity. It is a key element of social control over individual’s social pressures towards having to conform. Especially when they can deviate risking their membership as a result of that risk. However, social consequences help establish an important understanding of social life as a whole. We live in a very physical and cognitive world and when discussing group membership and the social pressures, understanding the social influence and group behavior in group memberships is one of the most important keys to everyday life (Messick & Mackie, 1989).

There are several types of group environments that we encounter in a life time; from sports, school, work, family and peers. Every type of group contact comes with social influence and behaviors from each individual involved in the group setting. Individuals affect one another in several different ways depending on their experiences. Experiences that each individual has encountered in their lifetime; is the key tool in intergroup relations. It is what makes group behavior an important asset when discussing the theory behind intergroup contact and how they all in the end relate to one another. Ultimately, the individual’s experiences, needs, social influences and relationships are what make up how individuals approach group membership.


Intergroup relations are essentially determined by how people relate to one another as well as how they categorize others. Perceptions is what shapes individuals personal needs and values, and by the behavior between groups. This process intermingles and works in sync with each other. With this categorization of people in groups it can sometimes cause the intergroup bias and conflict among the group members or members outside of the group (Dovidio, April 21, 1990). However, with conflict and social categorization come goals to help implement positive group membership. Different groups and culture can help organize and produce efforts to achieve a mutually desired outcome; as long as conditions and discipline is applied. Being able to work together and understand everyone’s individual needs and goals will help establish a positive intergroup dynamic.

Certain perceptions are developed toward a group member or members that are involved in a negative or positive intergroup relation. Social categorization, stereotypes, intergroup bias, motivations, prejudices, and the functional relationship process within a group. These basic processes are the fundamental interpretations of intergroup relations and the dynamics that in turn produce a group membership that can successfully be achieved with hard work, understanding and the basic desires to work as a group and overcome the biasness that can take place.


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