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Psychological Theories on Minimal Group - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 175
Minimal group/psychological theories: Problems: VsTajfel: By definition, minimal groups are not grounded in previous experiences, nor in already existing and easily accessible stereotypes. So how can minimal groups provide their new members with meaning? >Minimal Group/Tajfel, >Social Identity Theory/Tajfel.
Cadinu/Rothbart: ‘Overall, in-group favoritism in the minimal group paradigm is a well-established phenomenon, but the exact reasons for this favoritism remain unclear’ (Cadinu and Myron Rothbart: 1996(1): 661).
Explanation/Rothbart/Cadinu: two processes: a) because social categorization implies that the self and the ingroup share certain characteristics, people will be prone to project (aspects of) the typically positive representation of the individual self onto the ingroup (self-anchoring), thereby forming a positive ingroup representation.
b) people will also apply an „oppositeness heuristic“, assuming, that ingrop and outgroup do indeed differ.
Evidence: (Cadinu/Rothbart 1996(1)): manipulating the accessibility of the individual self prior to judgments about minimal groups affected ingroup but not outgroup ratings – making judgments of the ingroup more similar to those of the self.
Otten/Wentura: (2001)(2): the degree of overlap between self and ingroup ratings predicted the degree to which members of minimal groups showed evaluative intergroup bias. There was no evidence, however, that similarity or dissimilarity in the mental representations of self and outgroup was a relevant predictor of intergroup bias in a minimal group setting (see also Robbins and Krueger, 2005(3), for a similar conclusion).
Haslam I 176
Self-anchoring: findings on self-anchoring in minimal groups (cf.Cadinu/Rothbart 1969(1)) suggest that positive representations of the ingroup result from the projection of positive self characteristics onto this group, and that the positive differentiation from the outgroup is a by-product of this differentiation. In this way, an intergroup phenomenon, namely the positive differentiation of minimal ingroups from outgroups, can be traced back to an intragroup phenomenon, namely the link between self and ingroup. At the same time, the self-anchoring approach is consistent with the idea that differentiation between minimal groups is at least partly motivated by striving for meaning.
Vs: Problem: the approach cannot convincingly explain why group members sacrifice maximum ingroup profit for the sake of maximum differentiation between ingroup and outgroup.



1. Cadinu, M. and Rothbart, M. (1996) ‘Self-anchoring and differentiation processes in the minimal group setting’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(4): 661–77.
2. Otten, S. and Wentura, D. (2001) ‘Self-anchoring and in-group favoritism: An individual profiles analysis’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37: 525–32.
3. Robbins, J.M. and Krueger, J.I. (2005) ‘Social projection to ingroups and outgroups: A review and meta-analysis’, Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9: 32–47.



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


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-04-12
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