The background and development of motivational hypotheses in social identity theory are examined, revealing two general motives for intergroup discrimination: a desire for cognitive coherence, or good structure; and a need for positive self‐esteem. The latter (self‐esteem hypothesis: SEH) has received most attention. Both the theoretical and empirical bases of the SEH are largely rooted in research using the minimal group paradigm. However, it remains unclear whether self‐esteem is to be considered primarily as a cause or an effect of discrimination. When real social groups are considered the SEH appears to provide only a partial explanation, and a variety of more or less powerful alternative social motives may underlie discriminatory behaviour. We explore some social‐structural, individual and interpersonal limits to the SEH, and we call for an awareness of these motives and a re‐examination of the good‐structure thesis. The SEH, as it stands, provides only a partial contribution to our understanding of the relationship between social identity and discriminatory intergroup behaviour.
European Journal of Social Psychology – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 1988
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