The sample paper on Realistic Conflict Theory familiarizes the reader with the topic-related facts, theories and approaches. Scroll down to read the entire paper.

A group comprises two or more individuals, who interact with each other, share common goals, are interdependent and acknowledge their formation as a group. People join groups for several reasons. Amongst these reasons are, for interpersonal needs, support and commitment and group synergy.

Interpersonal needs include one’s desire for inclusion, where the individual is desirous of establishing an identity with others, which is often used as a way of self-verification.

Individuals need affection and joining a group is an excellent way of establishing relationships and making friends. Another component of interpersonal needs, is a sense of control, where the individual wants to prove his/her abilities and being in a group serves as an outlet to demonstrate these abilities.

Support and commitment is important to an individual, as he/she may want to undertake a project but finds that he/she would be far more motivated, if working in a group.

Also, the support given to each group member, by the other members reinforces commitment to the project being undertaken.

Group Synergy refers to the idea that two or more heads are better than one, and that groups are more capable of producing higher quality work than the individual would. Group Synergy also recognizes that groups make better decisions than individuals.

Realistic Group

Groups go through five (5) stages of development. It is important to note that to move from one stage to another can only be achieved on the basis of the success of the goals of the preceding stage.

Get quality help now
Dr. Karlyna PhD

Proficient in: Conflict

4.7 (235)

“ Amazing writer! I am really satisfied with her work. An excellent price as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The first stage is forming. At this primary level, group members come together and each individual collects data about the similarities and differences of the other members. The major task of forming is orientation, where its members become oriented to the group task(s) as well as each other. Discussion is centered on the approach(es), as well as similar concerns about the task(s).

The second stage is storming. As the group’s members attempt to organize the task(s), conflict is inevitable, due to personal beliefs or ideas. At this stage, members compromise their own beliefs to suit the group’s organization. Because of fear of exposure or failure, there will be an increased desire for structural clarification and commitment. Questions concerning leadership and responsibility roles arise during this stage, as well as the reward system and criteria for evaluation. Once these concerns are addressed, the group moves on to the third stage, norming.

Norming is characterized by cohesion. At this stage, members are concerned about problem solving and are willing to change preconceived ideas, on the basis of facts which are presented by other members and actively ask questions of one another. During this stage, members begin to identify with one another and acknowledge that the group is working in a unit. This contributes to the development of group cohesion.

Assuming that the goal(s) of the three preceding stages are accomplished, the group moves on to stage four, which is performing. At this level, the need for group approval is past and members are capable of working independently, in sub-groups or as total unit with equal facility. Group unity is complete, morale is high and loyalty is intense. There is support in problem-solving and an emphasis on achievement.

The final stage, adjourning, involves the termination of tasks and disengagement from relationships. Members are recognized and acknowledged for their contribution, participation and achievement, and are now ready to part company and disintegrate as a single unit.

Social Identity Theory and Realistic Group Conflict Theory have different assumptions about the nature of groups.

Social Identity Theory was developed by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in 1979 and 3 central ideas; categorization, identification and comparison. In order to understand our social environment, one has to categorize individuals. For example, to classify an individual as a black person is quite vague. However, when the same individual is classified as Jamaican, teacher or Baptist, the individual takes on a clearer meaning.

Identification carries two meanings. At times, individuals may refer to themselves as “we” versus “them” and at other times “I” versus “him/her”. This indicates that there are times when individuals think of themselves as members of a group and times when the individuals think of themselves as a single unit. When individuals refer to themselves as “we”, the “we” represents the individual’s in-group, or group to which the individual belongs to. When the individual refers to “them”, the “them” is the out-group, or group that the individual does not belong to.

The final component of Social Identity Theory is social comparison. Individuals need to feel good about them themselves and so in the context of being part of the in-group, the individual seeks to maximize the difference between the in-group and the out-group so that the in-group is always reflected in a more positive light than then out-group.

In 1971, Tajfel et al conducted an experiment which they called the Minimal Group Experiment. This experiment was conducted to ascertain whether competition was a necessary condition for ethnocentrism, the belief that one’s in-group is superior to one’s out-group. The experiment used a group of Bristol school boys as its subjects. These boys were show slide projections with varying numbers of dots. The boys were told that there some people in the group who were under estimators and over estimators of the dots being displayed.

The second task involved splitting the boys into two groups, which they were made to think that one group consisted of over estimators and the other group consisted of under estimators. What the boys did not know, was that in actuality, they were selected randomly.

The task was to allocate points redeemable for money. What was discovered was that in-group favoritism was displayed even though each boy did not know who the other in-group members were. They still allocated more points to members of the in-group. Even though these same boys were linked in various ways, through sport teams or as neighbors, this did not have any meaning or impact on the way they allocated points and demonstrated in-group bias.

A second experiment was conducted to endorse the findings of the preceding experiment. The boys were shown a series of paintings by two artists, Klee and Kadinsky. They were asked to choose their preference and were then divided into two groups. Again, the boys were unaware that the groups were not being divided according to artist preference. Again, the boys demonstrated in-group favoritism by allocating more points to in-group members.

Based on these two experiments, Tajfel concluded that indeed, by categorizing the boys into meaningless groups caused blatant discrimination.

A more recent display of Social Identity Theory in action is the of the Serbs uniting in solidarity to support their leader Slobodan Milosevic as he went before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. While Milosevic’s policies had contributed to brutal war, economic ruin and widespread corruption, Serbs saw themselves as a group/nation going to trial, instead of Milosevic as an individual on trial. The trial came across as a threat to Serbs as a unit. They could not escape the social identity of being a serb, so the best mechanism they could use was to categorize themselves and distance themselves from the out-group, which are western countries.

Realistic Group Conflict Theory is the idea that prejudice sometimes stems from competition between groups for scarce resources. In 1961, Sherif et al, set up the Robbers Cave Experiment. This experiment was a summer camp which consisted of 22 boys from similar backgrounds and family structure, who were all Caucasian. The boys were not acquainted prior to the camp, so they were allowed to get acquainted with each other, by sharing in various activities. The boys were then split into two groups; the Rattlers and the Eagles. Each group independently engaged in their own activities, which led to a more intimate relationship, where they had developed codes, jargon and nicknames.

The next stage involved pitting both groups against each other for a prize, to determine what would happen when they came together after bonding with their own in-group. This was done via an organized tournament which included a treasure hunt and a baseball game. By the end of the tournament there was visible hostility as the groups began to call each other names and launched a food fight in the dining room. In a 1949 study, one school of thought for reducing hostility was to introduce a third group, which would represent the common enemy to both groups. This solution was not desirable to Sherif, as he thought it would widen the inter-group conflict to a larger scale. In order to resolve the hostile conflict, Sherif noted that the groups need more than just contact. They needed a series of goals which could only be accomplished when both group’s efforts were combined. These goals are termed super ordinate goals.

The series involved a water supply crisis, where both groups had to locate the fault by working together. A second goal which was set up is the hiring of a film. The camp had no money to pay for it, however, if both groups combined their financial resources they would be able to rent the film for the benefit of all. The third challenge was towing a broken down food truck together, using a rope they had used previously in a tug-of-war game, to get the truck started. The realization of success from working together gradually reduced conflict to the point where the boys became friends, from these experiences.

This experiment supports that the use of super ordinate goals, which means that both groups share the same agenda of accomplishing a specific goal together, can reduce conflict.

While both theories seek to reduce group conflict, Social Identity Theory leans towards a cognitive approach of in-group bias. If group members believe that they are in a group with others who share similar identities and goals, then bias towards in-group members exist. The reward does not have to be a physical one, as the aim is towards achieving high self-esteem. Group members will do all possible to preserve their superiority so that their self-esteem will always be high. Through re-categorizing individuals, prejudice and conflict may be reduced, as individuals tend to categorize in reference to self. This would mean that each time a group is re-categorized, individuals would be identifying with each group he/she is being classified with, hence reducing out-group discrimination since the individual would be identifying with others at different times.

Realistic Group Conflict Theory leans towards a behavioral approach to conflict resolution, as demonstrated in the Robbers Cave Experiment. Initially, it was a case of “survival of the fittest” as they groups clamored for the scarce resource (tournament prize). However, through their collective actions, they were able to pool physical and financial resources to benefit both groups. It is through series behavioral actions that both groups realized they could accomplish the super ordinate goals set before them.

Another difference between Social Identity Theory and Realistic Group Conflict Theory is that Social Identity Theory places an emphasis on social competition, which has more to do with pride and self-esteem, while Realistic Group Conflict Theory uses objective competition which is vying for an object of social reality.

Cite this page

Realistic Conflict Theory. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Realistic Conflict Theory
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7