What Is Intergroup Conflict Social Psychology?


Vincent White

Intergroup conflict is a fascinating area of study in social psychology. It refers to the antagonistic behavior between different groups within a society or organization.

This conflict can arise due to various factors such as competition for resources, differences in values and beliefs, or even historical grievances. Understanding the dynamics of intergroup conflict is crucial for creating inclusive and harmonious societies.

The Nature of Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict can take many forms, ranging from subtle biases and prejudices to full-blown violence and warfare. It often stems from a sense of “us versus them” mentality, where individuals identify strongly with their own group and perceive members of other groups as threats or enemies.

Stereotyping plays a significant role in intergroup conflict. Stereotypes are simplified and generalized beliefs about a particular group, which may be based on race, ethnicity, religion, or any other defining characteristic. These stereotypes can lead to prejudice and discrimination, further fueling the conflict between groups.

Causes of Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict can arise due to various factors:

  • Competition for Resources: When resources such as jobs, land, or political power become scarce, different groups may compete against each other, leading to conflict.
  • Perceived Threats: Groups may feel threatened by the actions or existence of other groups. This perception of threat can be real or imagined but contributes significantly to intergroup conflict.
  • Differences in Values and Beliefs: Clashes between groups often occur when they hold divergent values, religious beliefs, or cultural practices that are seen as incompatible.
  • Ingroup Favoritism: People tend to favor members of their own group, leading to biased treatment and discrimination against outgroup members. This favoritism can intensify intergroup conflict.

Effects of Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict has wide-ranging effects on individuals, groups, and societies:

  • Polarization: Conflict can deepen the divide between groups, increasing hostility and reducing the possibility of cooperation or resolution.
  • Ingroup Cohesion: Conflict can strengthen the bonds within a group as members rally together against a common perceived threat.
  • Social Identity Threat: Individuals may experience anxiety and stress when their social identity is threatened or devalued by members of other groups.
  • Violence and Aggression: In extreme cases, intergroup conflict can escalate into violence, causing immense human suffering and destruction.

Managing Intergroup Conflict

While intergroup conflict is complex and challenging to address, there are strategies that can help manage and reduce its negative impact:

  • Contact Theory: Encouraging positive interactions between members of different groups can help break down stereotypes and promote understanding.
  • Mutual Goals: Fostering shared goals that require cooperation between groups helps build bridges and reduces conflict.
  • Educational Initiatives: Promoting education about diversity, inclusivity, and empathy can challenge stereotypes and promote acceptance across groups.
  • Conflict Resolution Techniques: Implementing mediation, negotiation, and dialogue processes can assist in finding mutually beneficial solutions to intergroup conflicts.


Intergroup conflict is a complex phenomenon that has significant implications for individuals and societies. By understanding its causes and effects, we can work towards creating more inclusive and harmonious environments. By fostering empathy, education, and dialogue, we can take meaningful steps to reduce intergroup conflict and build a more interconnected world.