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Social Psychology on Jigsaw Method - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 223
Jigsaw method/Social Psychology: Within social psychology, the theoretical contribution of the jigsaw strategy (Aronson et al. 1978(1); >Jigsaw method/Aronson; >Jigsaw method/psychological theories) was limited because of difficulty in clarifying the underlying mechanisms that accounted for the effects obtained. Indeed, moving into the contemporary era, this focus on outcomes rather than process limited the kind of theory development that was becoming critically important for publication within social psychology. (…) the phrase ‘jigsaw classroom’ has not appeared in the title of an article published in a leading social psychology journal (…).
Preliminary work:
Contact hypothesis: Beginning with research in the 1930s but catalysed by Allport’s (1954)(2) classic book The Nature of Prejudice, the contact hypothesis had represented the state-of-the art intervention for improving intergroup relations (see Dovidio et al., 2003)(3). Aronson’s work drew heavily on Sherif et al.’s (1961)(4) concept of superordinate goals in the Robbers Cave study, helped to revitalize interest in the way intergroup contact can improve intergroup relations. And although it may seem that the jigsaw classroom was somewhat neglected by social psychologists, this is certainly not the case today. (Paluck and Green(2009)(5).
Explanations: It was the development of two other contemporaneous frameworks – social cognition and social identity – that ultimately provided the essential insights into the underlying processes (e.g., after Fiske and Taylor, 1984(6); Tajfel and Turner, 1979(7)).
Categorization/social cognition: intergroup biases are conceptualized as outcomes of normal cognitive processes associated with simplifying and storing the overwhelming quantity and complexity of information that people encounter daily. One fundamental aspect of this process is the tendency to categorize individuals as members of social groups based on distinguishing characteristics,
Haslam I 224
often socially constructed as essential qualities. >Categorization/Dovidio.
Haslam I 225
Social identity theory: According to social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979(7); see also Abrams and Hogg, 2010)(8), the other important development around the time of Aronson and colleagues’ (1978)(1) original work on the jigsaw strategy, a person’s experience of identity varies along a continuum that ranges at one extreme from the self as a separate individual with personal motives, goals, and achievements, to another extreme in which the self is the embodiment of a social collective or group.
Individual level: here, one’s personal welfare and goals are most salient and important.
Group level: here, the goals and achievements of the group are merged with one’s own, and the group’s welfare is paramount.
Intergroup relations: begin when people think about themselves as group members rather than solely as distinct individuals. (See Sherif (1961(4) and Tajfel and Turner (1979(7)).



1. Aronson, E., Stephan, C., Sikes, J., Blaney, N. and Snapp, M. (1978) The Jigsaw Classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
2. Allport, G.W. (1954) The Nature of Prejudice. New York: Addison-Wesley.
3. Dovidio, J.F., Gaertner, S.L. and Kawakami, K. (2003) ‘The Contact Hypothesis: The past, present, and the future’, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 6: 5–21.
4. Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R. and Sherif, C.W. (1961) Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange.
5. Paluck, E.L. and Green, D.P. (2009), ‘Prejudice reduction: What works? A review and assessment of research and practice’, Annual Review of Psychology, 60: 339-67.

6. Fiske, S.T. and Taylor, S.E. (1984) Social Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.
7. Tajfel, H. and Turner, J.C. (1979) ‘An integrative theory of intergroup conflict’, in W.G. Austin and S. Worchel (eds), The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole. pp. 33–48.


John F. Dovidio, „ Promoting Positive Intergroup Relations. Revisiting Aronson et al.’s jigsaw classroom“, 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. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
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.
Social Psychology
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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