Addressing power differences may spur advantaged racial groups to act for racial equality

February 02, 2021

When different groups of people come into contact, what's the key to motivating advantaged racial groups to join historically disadvantaged racial minority groups to strive for racial equality and social justice? It's a complex conundrum studied for years by social scientists like Linda Tropp, professor of social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Her latest research, published in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations, tested and supported Tropp and colleagues' proposition that having open communication about group differences is a crucial pathway.

While greater contact between racial groups is typically associated with less prejudice, it hasn't been clear what may lead members of advantaged racial groups to take concrete actions to promote equality and change society. Prior research suggests that advantaged racial groups prefer to focus on commonalities between groups rather than discuss group differences, which may not lead to action to change the status quo.

Tropp, who for more than two decades has studied how members of different groups experience contact with each other, theorized that communicating openly about power differences across racial lines might well be the game-changing catalyst for white Americans to be moved to do something to address racial inequality.

"The prevailing assumption is that members of advantaged groups don't want to talk about group differences in power. It's not a pleasant or comfortable thing for us to do; but it's a valuable and worthwhile thing, and we need to grow accustomed to doing it," Tropp says. "And the more we talk about group differences in power, the more we can become motivated to take action and support policies that would benefit groups other than our own."

The researchers conducted studies in two distinct national contexts to test their hypothesis that "the more [that] members of advantaged groups do communicate with members of disadvantaged groups about group differences in power..., the more willing they should be to take action to promote intergroup equality."

In the first study, 259 white Americans completed online surveys in 2015 that examined how they, as advantaged group members, communicate about group differences with Black Americans. Analysis of the findings "offers initial support for our hypothesis that greater contact with Black people would predict Whites' greater willingness to engage in collective action for racial justice through the pathway of greater communication about group differences in power," the paper states.

In the second study, conducted in Turkey, 267 Turks - the advantaged majority group - completed surveys about their contact and communication with Kurds, the disadvantaged ethnic minority group that has suffered a long history of human rights violations and ongoing discrimination in Turkey. This study also confirmed the significance of communicating about power differences.

The next step is to examine how members of advantaged racial groups communicate about group differences in power, and how members of disadvantaged racial groups respond to these discussions with the racial majority.

"Our views of the world are a function of our lived experience," Tropp says. "The mere act of being willing to listen and accept the validity of the experiences of people who are different from you is a profound step toward bridging difference and building unity."
-end-


University of Massachusetts Amherst

Related Social Psychology Articles from Brightsurf:

'Social cells' related to social behavior identified in the brain
A research team led by Professor TAKUMI Toru of Kobe University's Graduate School of Medicine (also a Senior Visiting Scientist at RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research) have identified 'social cells' in the brain that are related to social behavior.

Psychology: The most personal device
Everyone who uses a smartphone unavoidably generates masses of digital data that are accessible to others, and these data provide clues to the user's personality.

More than one cognition: A call for change in the field of comparative psychology
In a paper published in the Journal of Intelligence, researchers argue that cognitive studies in comparative psychology often wrongly take an anthropocentric approach, resulting in an over-valuation of human-like abilities and the assumption that cognitive skills cluster in animals as they do in humans.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Psychology research: Antivaxxers actually think differently than other people
As vaccine skepticism has become increasingly widespread, two researchers in the Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences have suggested a possible explanation.

Social isolation during adolescence drives long-term disruptions in social behavior
Mount Sinai Researchers find social isolation during key developmental windows drives long term changes to activity patterns of neurons involved in initiating social approach in an animal model.

In court, far-reaching psychology tests are unquestioned
Psychological tests are important instruments used in courts to aid legal decisions that profoundly affect people's lives.

Developmental psychology -- One good turn deserves another
Five-year-olds enforce reciprocal behavior in social interactions. A study by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich psychologists shows that children come to recognize reciprocity as a norm between the ages of 3 and 5.

Psychology can help prevent deadly childhood accidents
Injuries have overtaken infectious disease as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the research needed to help predict and prevent deadly childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Read More: Social Psychology News and Social Psychology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.