Effects of Minimal Group Identity on Processing of Evaluative Information
Heindl, Timothy R.
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The Problem: The purpose of this study was to assess whether minimal group identity, as established through a minimal group paradigm, could influence processing of evaluative information. Minimal group identity was measured through a series of trait scales on which subjects were asked to rate own group and out group members. Processing speed was measured through a semantic priming paradigm previously used with stereotyped primes and traits. It was predicted subjects would rate own group members higher than outgroup members. Additionally it was predicted that subjects' reaction times would be faster to positive character traits after their own group label than the outgroup's label. Procedure: Seventy-two Drake University students (36 female and 36 male) were randomlydivided into one of two groups by a dot estimation task and assigned a group label (YOF or LAJ). Subjects performed the semantic priming task with minimal group labels serving as primes of positive and negative character traits. Evaluative trait scales were used as dependent measures of ingroup bias. Findings: Analysis of trait scales revealed that the minimal group paradigm, as presented in this study, failed to establish ingroup bias as predicted. Unexpectedly, subjects consistently rated outgroup members higher than ingroup members across all evaluative traits. Results of reaction time analyses were contingent upon the establishment of minimal group identity; therefore those results can not be interpreted as supporting or refuting the main hypothesis of this study. Conclusions: Because minimal group identity was not established in this study, it should not be concluded that minimal group labels cannot be reference points that would facilitate processing of positive and negative information. A test of this hypothesis requires clear determination that the minimal group paradigm formed group boundaries and established ingroup bias. Recommendations: In a future replication the minimal group paradigm could again be used in conjunction with a semantic priming task, but with an experimental population of either all male or all female subjects. Additionally, a mixed gender population should be used, but with more interaction between and within groups, a competitive element or a self esteem manipulation. It is possible that the results of this study are not a reflection of the inability of this paradigm to work, but rather an establishment of the lower limits of group identification necessary to influence processing of evaluative information.
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