Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Haslam I 164
Categorization/Tajfel: Thesis: A network of intergroup categorizations is omnipresent in the social environment; it enters into our socialization and education all the way from ‘teams’ and ‘team spirit’ in the primary and secondary
Haslam I 165
education through teenage groups of all kinds to social, national, racial, ethnic or age groups. (Tajfel et al., 1971(1): 153). >Minimal group/Tajfel.
Prejudice/Tajfel: The articulation of an individual’s social world in terms of its categorization in groups becomes a guide for his [or her] conduct in situations to which some criterion of intergroup division can be meaningfully applied. (Meaningful need not be ‘rational’.) An undifferentiated environment makes very little sense and provides no guidelines for action … . Whenever … some form of intergroup categorization can be used it will give order and coherence to the social situation. >Group behavior/Tajfel.
Haslam I 172
VsTajfel: An alternative interpretation of [Tajfel’s] minimal ingroup bias (>Minimal group/Tajfel, >Group behavior/Tajfel, >Social identity theory/Tajfel) was that, rather than categorization driving discrimination, this was simply caused by participants’ perception that other ingroup members were similar to themselves. This meshed with belief-congruence theory (Rokeach, 1969)(2) and similarity-attraction principles, which suggest that we are prone to dislike others (and by extension other groups) who have different views and values to our own. (RokeachVsTajfel).
Could ingroup favouritism therefore be explained by the assumed similarity with those in the ingroup (and dissimilarity with those in the outgroup)? This explanation does not necessarily invalidate the effect of social categorization (as Tajfel’s own work had shown, categorization can indeed lead people to accentuate similarities within categories and differences between them). However, it does point to a different mechanism.
Vs: Further experiments by Michael Billig and Tajfel (1973)(3) in which similarity and social categorization were manipulated independently seemed to rule out this idea. These showed that social categorization produces stronger ingroup bias than similarity. >Similarity/psychological theories, >Categorization/psychological theories, >Reciprocity/psycholgical theories, >Egoism/Tajfel.



1. Tajfel, H., Flament, C., Billig, M.G. and Bundy, R.F. (1971) ‘Social categorization and intergroup behaviour’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 1: 149–77.
2. Rokeach, M. (1969) Beliefs, Attitudes and Values. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
3. Billig, M.G. and Tajfel, H. (1973) ‘Social categorization and similarity in intergroup behaviour’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 3: 27–52.



Russell Spears and Sabine Otten,“Discrimination. Revisiting Tajfel’s minimal group studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Tajfel, Henri
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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