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To Help Groups Like Each Other, Combine Them

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Mixed-race women's volleyball team


People from different cultural groups often dislike and discriminate against one another.


When people from different social groups think of each other as belonging to one larger group, they like each other more.

The Details

To find out how to reduce bias between two social groups, social psychologist  Samuel L. Gaertner and his colleagues assigned 180 men and 180 women to complete the Winter Survival Problem, an exercise where participants ranked the importance of 10 items for surviving in the snowy woods. The researchers scheduled six participants per session.

Infographic about group confliect

The six participants first completed the task in three-person teams. The researchers then asked the participants to redo the task in one of three conditions.

In the segregated condition, the six participants worked together at one table, but continued to sit in their original three-person teams.

But in the integrated condition, participants from each team sat in alternating chairs around one table, so that the original two teams were fully blended.

In the separate individuals condition, participants separated from their teams to work on the exercise individually.

Afterwards, each participant indicated how much they liked the other five people in their session. Gaertner and his colleagues found that participants in the segregated groups condition disliked people from the other team, but liked people from their own team. Participants in the integrated condition liked all people equally, while those in the separate individuals condition disliked everyone equally.

Why This Works

When people from different groups work together and think of themselves as one new group, they develop good feelings for everyone in the new group.

When This Works Best

Integrating groups shows the biggest results for people who feel they belong to distinct groups.

The Original Study

Gaertner, S. L., Mann, J., Murrell, A., & Dovidio, J. F. (1989). Reducing intergroup bias: The benefits of recategorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(2), 239.

In the Media

The Huffington Post

Related Topics

Bias Civil Society Relationships


Text by Lily Zheng

Infographic by Maxwell Philp