Lecture 6 Alexas Intergroup Relations:
Solomon Shereshevskiis Mind of a Mnemonist
Could memorize lengthy mathematical formulae, matrices, and
poems in foreign languages
Discovered his ability when listening to a speech in the 1920s
Take the number 1. This is a proud, well-built man; 2 is a high-spirited
woman; 3 is a gloomy person; 6 a man with a swollen foot; 7 a man with a
moustache; 8 a very stout woman - a sack within a sack. As for the number
87, what I seeis a fat woman and a man twirling his moustache.
He had problems categorizing as everything he saw was something
specific and therefore not good at generalization (example: Dev
Patel from Slumdog Millionaire) and also two other noticeable things
o Trouble memorizing things that werent literal
o Not good at remembering faces, which he saw as very
changeable (Slumdog Millionaire example again)
Categorization allows us to
Organize and make sense of the world
Make inferences about what we encounter based on previous
experience (i.e. a bear weve never seen before)
But sometimes we make over-generalizations. Our tendency to
categorize extends to people. Overgeneralization stereotypes
This tendency also extends to ourselves.
We view ourselves as members of social categories.
o PSYC12 Students
o University of Toronto Students
o Live in Canada
o 18-22 years old
www.notesolution.com The categorization that is most obvious to us at a given time
depends on who we are interacting with i.e. it depends on the
context/situation where at one point I am categorized as an
AIESECer and specifically AIESEC Toronto at another point or at an
interuniversity competition a student of UofT.
Does categorization necessarily lead to prejudice?
Textbooks definition of prejudice: a biased evaluation of a group,
based on real or imagined characteristics of the group members
It does not necessarily result to prejudice as we can still be
unbiased even though we are a part of one group and not the other.
Social Identity Theory
Joe Carter and Unidentified Man example where the association
with the team results in an increase of their self-esteem.
Two ways to gain self-esteem: our accomplishments and our groups
If Social Identity Theory is right and we derive self-esteem from our groups
accomplishments, what would it predict about the self-esteem of devalued
It would predict a low self-esteem for devalued groups.
There is ample evidence of inferiority feelings and of morbid self-
hate in all minority groups. - Erik Erikson
But research suggests that this phenomenon isnt necessarily true
as groups that do not have lower self-esteem:
o Blacks, Hispanics, women, physically unattractive, facially
disfiguring conditions, obese, learning disabled, physically
handicapped, gay, mentally ill, juvenile delinquents.
Optimal Distinctiveness Theory (ODT)
We dont associate with groups because we want to boost self-
esteem, we do it because we are driven to be optimally distinct.
Optimal Distinctiveness good amount of uniqueness from others.
www.notesolution.com Social Identity Theory and Optimal Distinctiveness Theory says that
we can have multiple social identities. In optimal distinctiveness
theory we look at how inclusive these group memberships are i.e.
the centre is the personal identity and then when we go outside the
centre, we see the individuals social identity and it gets broader
and broader as you go further away from your personal identity.
Optimal Distinctiveness Model
Assimilation: the need to belong and Differentiation: the need to be
A low inclusive group for OReilly would be his family as there arent
a lot of people in there. A high inclusive group would be the
prisoners at Oz as there are a lot of people in that category. His
family provides him with a high need for assimilation or
belongingness as this group does not make him feel like he belongs
in society as it is an exclusive group. The prisoners provide him a
high need for differentiation as this group does not make him feel
unique. So, OReilly requires a balance of both of these needs. In his
case it could be the affiliation with Irish prisoners.
How do ODT and SIT explain prejudice?
There are consequences of associating with a group, no matter
what the motivation (self-esteem or optimal distinctiveness).
o We associate ourselves with groups
o We like our group better than other groups (ingroup bias)
www.notesolution.com o We tend to see outgroup members as all the same
(outgroup homogeneity effect)
This leads to prejudice.
The tendency to favour ones own group over an outgroup.
Maybe having friends from other groups can dilute this bias as
liking them outside of a particular ingroup can make this bias
Miller, Downs & Prentice (1998) study asked the question: Is sharing
a birthday with someone enough to make us feel like we share a
social identity with them, and to make us show ingroup bias? The
study used the prisoners dilemma game to measure the ingroup
People in the birthday group, cooperated more in comparison to the
control group regardless of what condition. Therefore, a display of
We show favouritism to people who...
o Share our birthdayLike the same art as us
o Share the last few digits of our drivers license
o Are arbitrarily assigned to the same group as us
o Make similar guesses to us in games
Outgroup Homogeneity Effect
The tendency to see members of an outgroup as more similar to
one another than members of your own ingroup.
The point of categorization is to find general rules about groups and
to be able to tell something about an individual member of the
group based on their membership. This leads to outgroup
homogeneity effects and also overgeneralizations and stereotypes.
If we see our group as the best, and members of the other group as
all the same it seems inevitable that we will show a biased