Favoritism, not hostility, causes most discrimination
Researchers have said that most discrimination in the US is not caused by intention to harm people different from us, but by ordinary favoritism directed at helping people similar to us.
University of Washington psychologist Tony Greenwald, who co-authored the review with Thomas Pettigrew of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said they can produce discrimination without having any intent to discriminate or any dislike for those who end up being disadvantaged by our behavior.
Greenwald and Pettigrew reviewed experiments and survey methods from published scientific research on discrimination from the last five decades.
They were surprised to find that the discrimination observed in those studies occurred much more often as helping rather than harming someone. But they also found that most researchers defined discrimination as based on negative attitudes and hostility, only rarely treating favoritism as a component of discrimination.
Take this hypothetical scenario: When conducting reviews of two employees, a manager finds they both fall between two performance categories. The manager gives a higher category to the employee whose child is friends with the manager's child, leading to a promotion and salary raise, while the other employee receives a smaller raise and no promotion.
Was the manager consciously discriminating against the second employee? Or did she simply give a boost to someone to whom she had an "ingroup" connection?
"Your 'ingroup' involves people that you feel comfortable with, people you identify with," Greenwald explained. "We usually think first of demographic characteristics like age, race, sex, religion and ethnicity as establishing an ingroup, but there are also ingroups based on occupation, neighborhood and schools attended, among other things. Outgroups are those with whom you don't identify."
(Posted on 20-05-2014)