The focus of my PhD work is on group inequality and collective action. I am investigating how people react to such inequality or conflict when they are structurally and psychologically separate from that context: bystanders. Most research to date has examined the psychology and behaviour of group members within the context, especially people who are members of the disadvantaged group.
Disadvantaged group members take action to improve their group status when they identify strongly with the ingroup, feel anger at the outgroup, and perceive that the ingroup can achieve its goals. Members of the advantaged group, through broadly similar processes, may themselves take action to support or oppose the disadvantaged group’s goals.
These frameworks are less useful for predicting how bystanders initially react when encountering group conflict, because bystanders lack sufficient information to evaluate a group’s efficacy or injustice and are not likely to have an existing shared identity with either the advantaged or disadvantaged group.
I have been investigating the role of personally held, universally applied values in shaping bystanders’ reactions to intergroup inequality. As a first step, I am examining whether people who value change and people who value the status quo support different groups in a given instance of inequality.
I show that these values hold predictive power separate and additional to existing theories about power and dominance (e.g., Social Dominance Theory, Right-Wing Authoritarianism), and about legitimising a social system (e.g., System Justification Theory), especially in predicting support for change-seeking groups (usually, the disadvantaged group).