The Role of security of social identity in intergroup relations.
Using concepts derived from Social Identity theory, this study investigated the impact of status, perceived legitimacy/illegitimacy and perceived stabiliity/instability on intergroup bias in a real-life intergroup situation between blacks and whites in South Africa. The sample consisted of 369 students registered at the University of Natal, Durban. Of the total, 208 subjects were used exclusively in preliminary testing necessary for the development of the questionnaire. The independent variables, status, perceived legitimacy/illegitimacy and perceived stability/instability, were assessed by means of the group perception ladder; this being an adapted version of Cantril's (1965) Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. An attitude scale for black-white relations was also constructed and administered as a check on the validity of the group perception ladder. The dependent measure was the degree of ingroup bias displayed in (i.) voting preferences among four candidates (2 whites and 2 blacks) standing in a mock faculty council election, (ii) evaluation of these candidates .on a list of trait scales, (iii) number of student residence rooms allocated to ingroup and outgroup, (iv) relative desirability of the rooms allocated to each group and (v) the degree of integration shown in the allocation of rooms to each group. Both the independent and dependent measures were compiled into a questionnaire, carefully randomized according to a Latin-square arrangement. This questionnaire was then administered to a group of 161 paid student volunteers of all races. Participants were unaware that race was a subject of interest. A system of colour coding was used to identify the race of the subject . The data' from Indian and 'coloured' volunteers was discarded from the analysis, Since blacks and whites formed the racial categorizations selected for investigation.. The data from 70 blacks and 70 whites was analysed using the statistical technique of multiple linear regression. A statistically significant pattern of results was found on two of the dependent measures, namely, ingroup bias in voting preferences and degree of integration. The findings provided partial support for the predictions of Soc i a I I dentity theory. Under conditions where stability / instability was found to have a significant effect, the perception of instability generally resulted in an enhancement of ingroup bias. A significant effect for status was only found when the status relations were perceived as legitimate. Perceived legitimacy was found to be more salient in the low status group; eliciting a stronger reaction from its members. In both the high and low status groups those who perceived the social stratification as illegitimate were found to display lesser ingroup bias than comparable others who believed that the status system is legitimate. While social Identity theory predicts such a trend for high status groups, the similar findings in the low status group is contrary to the theory. These results were evaluated against the backdrop of several methodological and practical problems associated with the research.