Investigating ingroup bias in an interactive minimal group environment.
Objectives: The general problematic of social science research is located in individualized explanations of social and collectively based phenomena. This is due to methodological issues inherent in the way social research is conducted. Research on ingroup bias via the renowned minimal group studies is an exemplar of this general problem and is examined in this study. This research argued that explaining ingroup bias in terms of individuals’ psychological needs is insufficient. This is because the original paper and pencil test failed to account for the effects of social interaction and how the interaction unfolds over time. Consequently, the old problem of ingroup bias was revisited using a new technology: the Virtual Interaction Application (VIAPPL). Design: A within-subjects and between-groups experimental design was used. Methods: VIAPPL was used to replicate the original study but in a way that demonstrated how ingroup bias was produced in interaction over time. This was facilitated by the ‘Give and Get’ game, where participants allocated tokens to one another in a simulated game-like environment. A repeated measures ANOVA and social network analyses were used to analyse the data. Results: As predicted, 1) ingroup bias was found most likely to be manifest in social interaction characterised by group categorization, and 2) more ingroup bias was expressed when the group interaction is visible to those participating in the interaction. Ingroup bias did not amplify as the group interaction unfolded over time. However, there was evidence proving that ingroup bias is not static, as was previously thought. Instead, it changed by increasing and decreasing as the rounds of the game advanced. Furthermore, the investigation revealed that 1) participants distributed their tokens fairly when they acted with and without a group membership, 2) observing the interaction informed the way tokens were allocated in both individual and group conditions, and 3) reciprocity was not operant in the interaction. Conclusions: This study introduced a new framework for studies in the minimal group paradigm (MGP) that allowed participants to interact in a virtual environment and enabled both traditional ANOVA methods and social network analyses. By rendering social interaction visible in the MGP, this study moved beyond an individualized explanation of social interaction by offering a social explanation of the behaviours manifested.