Derogation displayed amongst student degree groups: effects of self-esteem, threat, identification and target group.
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Childs, Jessica, E
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Previous studies investigating the role of self-esteem as a predictor and outcome of intergroup behaviour have failed to employ the most apt measure of self-esteem and much work is based around minimal groups and game relevant tests with little evaluative relevance to the participants. This study takes into account previous methodological errors in testing both the Social Identity Theory, as well as examining the existence of the Downward Comparison Theory in derogating lower status out-groups. While some support for these theories has been documented, they remain inconclusive. In a study using two student groups and a third target group, once a threat had been administered, participants’ self-esteem was measured in addition to their derogatory nature towards out-groups on a series of professional related traits. Among the realistic groups, self-esteem did not vary as a function of the threat/no threat condition. The results confirm that it is low self-esteem individuals that derogate a relevant comparison group more than those with high self-esteem; this effect was only found amongst high identifiers with their group. Conversely, this pattern of derogation was not found to occur when the participants were given the opportunity to derogate a lower status group. Furthermore, there was no difference in the extent to which participants derogated either the comparison relevant or lower status group. Although some support was found for the Social Identity Theory, specifically corollary two of the Self-esteem hypothesis, the results suggest the redundant nature of the Downward Comparison Theory in its present form. We argue that numerous extra societal processes are taking place amongst realistic groups which may account for the findings, and highlight the importance of naturalistic groups in advancing literature in this field.