Social categorisation -Blurring the boundaries

The winner of the 2000 Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology, Richard J. Crisp, describes his research on the potential of ‘multiple social categorisation’ in reducing prejudice.
IF you think of conflicts around the world, a common link emerges: in many cases they can be traced to differences in religion, ethnicity, or countless other bases for group membership. The pervasiveness of classification into social categories as a bedrock of intergroup relations is evident in all strata of social life; from efforts towards closer integration of European member states to the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, from ‘ethnic cleansing’ in former Yugoslavia to genocide in Rwanda. How we classify ourselves and others along these multiple social criteria has a significant impact on intergroup relations. Ever since Allport’s (1954) seminal writings categorisation has played a central role in explorations of person perception. It is now understood to be an integral part of the explanation for prejudice and discrimination. With such understanding comes the possibility of modifying some aspect of the categorisation process to alleviate social conflict. Can we use what we know of social categorisation in attempts to improve intergroup relations, whether it be curtailing of either violent intergroup conflict or the social exclusion of ethnic minorities and other stigmatised social groups?

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