About the connection between different exclusionary attitudes
- Prejudice and Group Thinking
"Group hostility" is a collective term for exclusionary attitudes towards different groups, ranging from racism and anti-Semitism to homophobia and prejudices against people with disabilities. Individuals who harbor hostility towards one group tend to exhibit hostility towards other groups as well.
The connection between different forms of group hostility
In 2011, the survey "Intolerance, prejudice and discrimination. A European report" was conducted. The data in the surveys show a connection between six different forms of group hostility: homophobia, Islamophobia, racism (biological), anti-Semitism, hostility towards immigrants, and misogyny. Individuals who score high on one form of group hostility tend to score high on the others on average.
“People who score high on one form of group hostility tend to score high on the others as well.
This confirms an assumption in prejudice research that dates back to Gordon Allport: that there is a connection between different prejudices, indicating a general element in prejudices (hence the term "Generalized prejudice").
The researchers behind the 2011 study use the term "group-focused hostility," which we have abbreviated to "group hostility." The abbreviation loses one important point of the term: it is entirely possible to have prejudices against someone based on the idea that they belong to a specific group, even if the individuals involved do not see themselves as a group or do not agree on how this group is defined. Prejudices are based on group focus by the individual with prejudiced views. This group focus may correspond more or less with actual groups in society.
“Prejudices are based on group focus by the individual with prejudiced views.
The term 'group-focused hostility' was first introduced by the German researcher William Heitmeyer (2002)." The term "group-focused hostility" was first introduced by the German researcher William Heitmeyer (2002). He and other researchers associated with the University of Bielefeld in Germany have mapped the prevalence of a set of prejudices in Germany over the years. They build on Allport's definition of prejudices as negative generalizations but focus particularly on the social and societal function of prejudices. The thesis is that prejudices against specific groups will be particularly widespread in a particular society. The prejudices' nature, construction, and interrelationships are linked to the function that these specific prejudices fulfill in the relevant society.
In Europe today, they point to prejudices against immigrants, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, women, and homosexuals as widespread prejudices." In Europe today, they point to prejudices against immigrants, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, women, and homosexuals as widespread prejudices. They find a connection between these prejudices in all EU countries, but the prevalence, content, and interrelation of prejudices vary from country to country. For example, negative attitudes towards immigrants are relatively widespread in the UK, while anti-Semitism is relatively low. In Italy, researchers find little prejudice against Blacks (defined as racism in the survey), while rejection of homosexuals is highest among Western European countries. The Eastern European countries in the survey, Poland and Hungary, stand out with relatively high levels of prejudices against all the groups in question.
Group hostility as antidemocratic
According to researchers, the core of group hostility is an ideology of unequal status, meaning an attitude that different groups have different values. Group hostility is an expression of a general devaluation of outgroups (Zick et al., 2009). Such devaluation is also a core feature of right-wing populist and extremist ideologies. Therefore, researchers see a close connection between generally prevalent prejudices on the one hand and right-wing populism and extremism on the other. Group hostility in a society can make populism and extremism attractive, as these ideologies advocate inequality and subordination of some groups in society.
“Group hostility is an expression of a general devaluation of outgroups.
Researchers also find that group hostility is linked to an authoritarian attitude, a hierarchical view of society, and resistance to diversity. Prejudices are thus closely related to antidemocratic, or at least undemocratic attitudes, as well as skepticism about migration and the kind of visible diversity it entails.
Offering security as prevention
We see that group-focused hostility is a category that encompasses the antidemocratic and extreme but also includes less extreme exclusionary attitudes. This is interesting when considering the prevention advice that emerges from this research. The starting point for this advice is the recognition that the main function of prejudices and group-focused hostility is to provide identity and community, a clear idea of an "us-community" standing together against a threatening "other.
“The main function of prejudices and group-focused hostility is to provide identity and community.
The idea that group hostility reflects challenges in society implies that prevention must provide a precise analysis of society: which features of society foster group hostility, which groups are affected, and what causes these particular groups to be affected. A sense of insecurity may be based on real factors, such as unemployment and economic downturns. A fundamental challenge for European societies is therefore to offer security to the population through means other than the exclusion of minorities resulting from group-focused hostility.
Zick, Andreas, Beate Küpper og Andreas Hövermann (2011). Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination. A European Report (http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/do/07908-20110311.pdf). Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Zick, Andreas, Beate Küpper og Andreas Hövermann (2009). Prejudices and Group-Focused Enmity. A Sociofunctional Perspective. I Pelinka, Anton et. al. Handbook of Prejudice. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.
Heitmeyer, Wilhelm (2002). Deutsche Zustände, vol. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.