Why does conflict emerge as it did in Baltimore last week among the police and the African-American community? Is it caused by poor parenting? Poverty? Joblessness? I provide a psychological perspective on the situation. I look at how stereotypes develop and conflict among groups develops. The solution is complex but the theories on these two issues give us some insight into what has to happen to resolve the problems.
Key Ideas Discussed in this Episode
- Equity: our social lives depend heavily on the concept fairness. We all realize that things should be fair – and we teach our children this – but we recognize that it often isn’t. Still, we desire fairness in so many aspects of life
- Social Trap: when something needs to be done “For the greater good” but most of us don’t want to do it because doing so would have negative effects on our own personal lives (NIMBY)
- Social Identity: we all have groups to whom we belong and we want our groups to do well – often at the expense of other groups.
- In-Group/Out-Group bias: we emphasize the good things about our group and the bad things about the out-group
- in-group/out-group bias leads to stereotyping the out-group.
- Realistic Conflict theory: conflict arises when two or more groups are seeking the same scarce resource (jobs, political power). This is especially problematic when there is a zero-sum situation.
- Mirror Image Perceptions: we tend to see the out group in a singular, extreme (typically negative) way
- Fundamental Attribution Error: we attribute our actions to the situation, but other people’s actions to their personalities.
- Blaming the Victim: Example: “Well if black mothers were only more strict with their kids this wouldn’t happen”
How to Resolve the Conflict?
- The “Contact Effect”: simply bringing members of different groups together can have a positive effect on breaking down barriers but it is best if the contact is non-competitive. Even indirect contact (reading stories or watching TV shows about the out-group) can be helpful.
- Superordinate goals: even better than bringing people together is to have the groups cooperate in the attainment of goals that will help both groups (superordinate goals)
- GRIT: Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension-Reduction: one group initiates some small conciliatory act or gesture. When this happens, the other group will often reciprocate and that’s the start of conflict reduction.