Self esteem and outgroup derogation: A clarification of competing theories
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Research surrounding the Self Esteem Hypothesis has produced conflicting results and unresolved issues. Whilst the original hypothesis posited that it is individuals low in self-esteem that are motivated to show intergroup discrimination, subsequent research has found evidence to suggest a pattern of individuals high in self esteem showing greater amounts of intergroup discrimination. Furthermore, the Social Identity Theory suggests that this intergroup discrimination will occur between members of the ingroup and a comparison relevant group, whilst the Downwards Comparison Theory suggests that it will occur between members of the ingroup and a lower status group. This investigation concentrated on applying the appropriate measures to explore the relationship between specific public collective self-esteem and the intergroup discrimination of two different outgroups in an attempt to clarify these competing theories. Participants with high public collective self-esteem and participants with low public collective self-esteem were each given the opportunity to derogate a comparison relevant outgroup and a lower status outgroup. Individuals low in public collective self-esteem were found to derogate a comparison relevant group significantly more than individuals high in public collective self-esteem and this was moderated by level of identification with the ingroup. This result is consistent with the SIT and provides some support for the SEH whilst challenging it’s opposing theorists. However, the same pattern was not discovered towards an unrelated, lower status outgroup as the Downward Comparison Theory would predict. Furthermore, the level of derogation shown towards a comparison relevant outgroup and an unrelated, lower status outgroup, did not significantly differ providing yet further challenge to the Downward Comparison Theory.