Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Fall, 1996
Miami University

Intergroup Bias
American Culture

Kelley Guenther, Benjamin Krieger, Kelly Underwood

Please Note: These materials may be used for research, study, and education, but please credit the authors and source.

         Intergroup bias has many different aspects. It concerns the relationships between in-groups and out-groups. The bias occurs when an individual observes the actions of one or more members of another social group and attributes them to the characteristics of that group. The in-group is that of the individual making the attributions while the out-group is being observed. Members of an in-group tend to favor their group over others.

         One explanation for inter-group bias is the social identity theory. The theory states that people need to maintain their self-esteem by associating themselves with a group that reflects some aspect of them. They then feel the need to view their groups as positively as possible in order to make themselves feel better.

         The attribution process is also a major factor in intergroup bias. Positive actions or outcomes of an in-group are often attributed to dispositional (internal) factors are discounted because they are attributed to situational (external) factors.

         One aspect of attribution the out-group homogeneity effect which states that "out-group members are not only seen as being different from the in-group but also seen as being more similar to each other and more interchangeable with each other." Have you ever thought that you and members of your race or ethnic background were unique but members of another race all look the same? This is a common occurrence and an excellent example of this aspect of inter-group bias.

         Stereotypes are also part of the intergroup bias (cf. Plous & Williams, 1995). In-group members often have characteristics they use to identify members of an out-group. They use these stereotypes as part of the attribution process. Suppose a White man observes a woman of Asian descent who performs well on an exam. This man might attribute this performance on the stereotype that "all Asians are highly intelligent." He might think that this woman did not have to study much. If the woman was White, however, the man might attribute the performance to hard work. He might feel more admiration for the White woman because of her effort, thus maintaining a positive view of his in-group.

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         Intergroup bias can be observed in many different levels of American culture. In the political spectrum, one will find intergroup bias between groups with different viewpoints. In the academic spectrum, intergroup bias can be seen in fraternities and sororities, both inside the Greek system and between Greek and non-Greek students. In the urban spectrum, intergroup bias can be seen in gangs, again from both inside gang life and between gang members and outside observers. Please feel free to check out the pages on these topics so you can learn more about these issues and draw your own conclusions about intergroup bias and how it affects you.

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         How does one reduce intergroup bias? One way to reduce intergroup bias is through "viewing the in-group as homogenous and the out-group as heterogeneous which is contrary to what normally happens," and therefore "intergroup discrimination disappears."

Learn More About :

Bias in the Political Spectrum

Bias in the Academic Spectrum

Bias in the Urban spectrum

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     Arena. (1996). Greek Community Commission Commentary, 8, 2-12. 

     Ester, P. & Vinken, H. (1993). Yuppies in cross-national perspective: Is there evidence for a yuppie value syndrome. Political Psychology, 14, 4, 667-696. 

     Korem, Dan. (1995). Gangs- The Affluent Rebels. Richardson, TX: International Focus Press. 

     Miami University. (1993). Everything Under the Sun. Oxford, OH: Associated Student Government, Inc. 16-18. 

     Plous, S., & Williams, T. (1995). Racial stereotypes from the days of American slavery: A continuing legacy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 795-817.

     Tesser, A. (1995). Advanced Social Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 

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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 17:06:32. This document has been accessed 1 times since April 20, 2002. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman