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 Dr Jackie Hunter

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Social Identity, Self-Esteem and Intergroup Discrimination

Enmity between people belonging to different social groups is a ubiquitous feature of human existence. A diverse array of theoretical perspectives have sought to adequately account for the manifestation of such phenomenon. Over the past quarter century the most compelling explanation of discrimination (or prejudice) between the members of different groups has been provided by social identity theory. A core assumption of the theory is that intergroup discrimination is in part motivated by people's attempts to achieve (and maintain) positive self-esteem. The primary aim of the research conducted in my laboratory has been to investigate this idea.

Investigating how intergroup discrimination affects self-esteem

Thus, in one series of studies we are investigating the extent to which different forms of intergroup discrimination (group favouring evaluations, biases in resource allocations, subtle prejudices, blatant prejudices and group serving explanations) affect different types of self-esteem (global, collective and domain specific).

How threats to self-esteem affect subsequent patterns of discrimination

In a second series of studies we are investigating the extent to which threats to self-esteem (eg, negative feedback, failure, the perception negative evaluations from the members of other groups) affect subsequent patterns of discrimination. The results of such work indicate a definite relationship between intergroup discrimination and certain types of self-esteem (ie, collective and domain specific). In spite of these findings, there is little doubt that variables other than self-esteem both affect and are affected by intergroup discrimination.

Investigating the extent to which other motivational constructs are related to forms of intergroup discrimination

Consequently, in a third series of studies we have begun to examine the extent to which constructs such as belongingness, meaning, anxiety, and perceptions of control are related to various forms of intergroup discrimination.


Hunter, J. A., Suttie, M., O'Brien, K., Davidson, S., Banks, M.Kafka, S., & Stringer, M. (2012). Negative intergroup discrimination and private collective self-esteem. In S. De Wal & S. Meszaros (Eds), Handbook on Psychology of Self-esteem. New York: Nova Science. [ISBN 978- 1-62100-458-5]

Platow, M., J. & Hunter J. A. (2012). Rediscovering Sherif's Boys' Camp Field Studies: Intergroup Relations and the Determination of Intergroup Attitudes and Behaviours. In J. R. Smith and S. A, Haslam (Eds), Refreshing Social Psychology: Beyond the classic studies. London and Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage.

O'Brien, K. S., Latner, J. D., Ebneter, D., Hunter, J. A. (in press) Obesity employment discrimination: The role of personal ideology, physical appearance, and obesity stigma. International Journal of Obesity.

Kafka, S., Hunter, J. A., Hayhurst, J., Boyes, M., Thomson, R. L., Clark, H., Grocott, A. C., Stringer, M. & O'Brien. (in press). A 10-day developmental voyage: Converging evidence from 3 studies showing that self-esteem may be elevated and maintained without negative outcomes. Social Psychology of Education.

Hunter, J. A., Hayhurst, J., Kafka, S., Boyes, M., Ruffman, T., O'Brien, K., Stringer. M. Elevated self-esteem 12 months following a 10-day developmental voyage. Journal of Applied Social Psychology (in press).

Hunter, J. A., Cox, S. L., O'Brien, K. S., Stringer, M. Boyes, M., Banks, M., Hayhurst, J. G., & Crawford, M. (2005). Threats to group value, domain specific self-esteem and intergroup discrimination amongst minimal and national groups. British Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 329-353.

O'Brien, K. S., Blackie, J. M., & Hunter, J. A. (2005). Hazardous drinking in elite New Zealand sportspeople. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 40, 239-241

Hunter, J. A., Kypri, K., Boyes, M., Stokell, N. M., O'Brien, K. S., & K. McMenamin. (2004). Social identity, self-evaluation and ingroup bias: The relative importance of particular domains of self-esteem to the ingroup. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 59-81.

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