Inclusive Identity and the Psychology of Social Change

Substantial work in social psychology has focused on reducing intergroup conflict and promoting positive intergroup attitudes. These interventions to reduce intergroup bias frequently emphasize the importance of inclusiveness and overarching commonalities among groups. However, a strict focus on harmony may sometimes have the unintended consequence of decreasing motivation for social change and collective action for both minority-and majority-group members. The present chapter explores the different ways factors that promote intergroup harmony can reduce or, in some circumstances, enhance motivations for collective action.

In particular, the research included in this chapter illustrates – conceptually and empirically – how promoting a focus solely on commonality and harmony can reinforce the status quo in ways that systematically benefit groups already enjoying social advantage. Focusing on harmony can reduce motivations for social change by distracting attention away from group-based inequality (i.e., reducing recognition of unfairness) and influence the way people appraise the efficacy of such action. However, recognizing both commonality and differences between group simultaneously can improve intergroup attitudes, produce positive intergroup motivations for understanding, and enhance willingness of both low and high status groups to take action to achieve equality.

New directions identified include recognition of the strategic role of colorblind and multicultural ideologies and the subtle influences of seemingly positive behavior in maintaining the status quo, as well as the potential for creating allies among high-status group members for social change that benefits disadvantaged groups.

Dovidio, J. F., Saguy, T., Ufkes, E. G., Scheepers, D., & Gaertner, S. L. (2015). Inclusive identity and the psychology of social change. In J. P. Forgas, K. Fiedler, and W. D. Crano (Eds.), Social Psychology and Politics. New York: Psychology Press. ISBN: 978-1-13-882968-8

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