Intergroup Discrimination Experiments Henri Tajfel (1970)
In 1970 Henri Tajfel and others conducted experiments in intergroup discrimation
in the English city of Bristol. This study was conducted with the participation of
sixtyfour schoolboys aged between fourteen and fifteen years. These boys already knew each
other to some extent as the all attended the same school and indeed were members of the same
year group and school "house."
The participants were divided into groups of eight, allegedly on the basis of how they
scored in a series of tests where they were told their visual judgement was to be gauged according to
their individual estimate of the numbers of dots flashed onto a screen, but actually
randomly. The boys found themselves variously categorised as "overestimators" and
"underestimators" or as being "accurate" or "inaccurate" and were then presented with
distributing rewards to their own and other groups.
The numbers in the matrices shown below represent units of 1/10 of a
penny.
In one condition the top row of the matrices represented
the amounts that could be allocated to a fellow group member. The
bottom row referred to amounts available for allocation to
another member of the ingroup. A participant was not allowed to award money to
himself. The subject also did not know the identity of any member
of either group. In another condition the subjects awarded
amounts to two different members of the outgroup. In a third
condition, the main experimental condition, in half the trials
the top row represented the amount to be awarded to another
ingroup member, and the bottom row represented the amount to be
awarded to an outgroup member. In the other trials the groups
were switched around for both rows. There were six matrices,
repeated three times; one for each of the three conditions.
Note that each box within a
matrix forces the subject to favour one boy over another; there
is no box that allows equal amounts to be given. It should be
noted that for each box, within the matrix, there was another
that held its inverse.
It is
claimed that the subjects are presented with a "clear
alternative to discriminating against the outgroup."
In making their Intergroup choices, a
large majority of the subjects allocated significantly more
points to their ingroup compared to the amount allocated to the
outgroup. In the other two conditions the points were distributed
fairly.
In the second experiment, the experimenters are interested in
the strategy adopted by the boys, when allocating points. The
boys could allocate for maximum joint profit (MJP), or for maximum
profit for the ingroup (MIP), or for maximum difference (MD) between the
points allocated for one group compared to the other. In this
experiment, the groups were randomly allocated to two groups
after the boys had judged 12 paintings by two "foreign
painters." The groups were labelled the "Klee
group" and the "Kandinsky group" being named
after the actual painters whose work had been shown. This time
the matrices consisted of 13 boxes, and were designed to
facilitate the use of any one of the three strategies, mentioned
above. In the centre of the matrices was a box with either 13 or
17 points in both the top and bottom rows, allowing for an equal
allocation. Towards the ends of the matrices a choice could be
made that would help to maintain maximum joint profit, maximum
ingroup profit or the maximum difference in amounts allocated
between the two groups (see image below).
The results demonstrated that when the boys had the choice
between maximising the profit for all and maximising the profit
for their own group, they chose the latter. Even more
interestingly though, the boys were found to be more concerned
with creating as large a difference as possible between the
amounts allocated to each group (in favour of their own group),
then in gaining a greater amount for everybody, across the two
groups. Tajfel points out that this last finding is blatant
discrimination caused by categorising the boys into meaningless
groups.

