The Key Psychological Factor Behind Prejudice and Discrimination

How ingroup-outgroup bias creates an “Us vs. Them” mindset

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Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

The “Us vs. Them” Mindset

Black vs. white, cops vs. minorities, gay vs. straight, American vs. immigrant, men vs. women, rich vs. poor, conservative vs. liberal, millennial vs. boomer — this “Us vs. Them” mindset plagues our society and keeps us in a constant war with the “Others.”

How Social Psychology Can Help Us Overcome Our Biases

Two experiments famously illustrate how quickly we create exclusive groups and ways to improve cooperation and tolerance.

The Jigsaw Classroom

In the 1950s, when schools were going through desegregation, they needed a way to reduce racial tensions in the classroom. Students were competitive and taunted each other, furthering the “Us vs. Them” divide.

The Robber’s Cave Experiment

This experiment, also in the 1950s, involved researchers posing as summer camp personnel where they split 22 adolescent boys who had never met each other into two groups. Once each group had bonded, the researchers created a series of challenges that resulted in each group becoming increasingly hostile toward the outgroup over competition for limited resources, thus creating an “Us vs. Them” mindset.

Final Thoughts

The “Us vs. Them” mindset causes us to compete against each other and show hostility toward anyone in the outgroup. Only our ingroup is worthy of resources — whether money, respect, dignity, education, or civil rights. This leads to a world of hostility and inequality.

Psychologist | Writer | Mindset & Habits Coach. Check out more of my work here:

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