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Group Psychology on Distinctiveness - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 176
Distinctiveness/group psychology/VsTajfel: tests of the social identity explanation of minimal ingroup bias (>Minimal groups/psychological theories; >Minimal groups/Tajfel, >Social Identity Theory/Tajfel) became somewhat side-tracked by the self-esteem hypothesis. One consequence of this was that researchers neglected the role of group distinctiveness that was central to Tajfel’s original explanation. In short, gaining positivity was emphasized at the expense of gaining distinctiveness. Moreover, the very question of what is distinctive about the ingroup (in contrast to the outgroup) has not been discussed. To address this, in some of our own research we have therefore distinguished ‘reactive distinctiveness’ motivated by an established outgroup that is explicitly similar to the ingroup, from a ‘creative distinctiveness’ process relevant to unknown or minimal groups (Spears et al., 2002(1), 2009(2)).
Haslam I 177
There is now evidence that one factor that contributes to responses in the minimal group paradigm is the opportunity this provides for creating coherence and meaning through the creation of positive group distinctiveness (Spears et al., 2009)(2). Participants showed more ingroup bias (on matrices and evaluative ratings) when groups were minimal rather than meaningful. This supports the idea that discrimination in the minimal group paradigm is a way of achieving group distinctiveness that gives meaning to the participants’ assigned group identity. Moreover, the studies also provided evidence that social identification increased in the minimal conditions.



1. Spears, R., Jetten, J. and Scheepers, D. (2002) ‘Distinctiveness and the definition of collective self: A tripartite model’, in A. Tesser, J.V. Wood and D.A. Stapel (eds), Self and Motivation: Emerging Psychological Perspectives. Lexington, KY: APA. pp. 147–71.
2. Spears, R., Jetten, J., Scheepers, D. and Cihangir, S. (2009) ‘Creative distinctiveness: Explaining in-group bias in minimal groups’, in S. Otten, T. Kessler and K. Sassenberg (eds), Intergroup Relations: The Role of Motivation and Emotion; A Festschrift in Honor of Amélie Mummendey. New York: Psychology Press. pp. 23–40.


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.
Group Psychology
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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