Thinking and feeling in the minimal group paradigm: Cognitive and affective components of ingroup bias

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




D. Bruce Carter


Thinking, Feeling, Minimal group paradigm, Cognitive, Affective, Ingroup bias

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


Individuals have a tendency to evaluate their own membership group (the ingroup) more favorably than a non-membership group (the outgroup). This differential group evaluation is known as ingroup bias. Research on ingroup bias has a long history in social psychology. Early researchers believed that ingroup bias was largely a function of motivational processes, whereas later researchers believed that ingroup bias was largely a function of cognitive processes. Current researchers predominantly are focused on cognitive explanations, but affective processes increasingly are being used to explain ingroup bias. The purpose of the present meta-analytic integration was to delineate the relative contributions of cognition and affect to ingroup bias in the minimal group paradigm. The minimal group paradigm was examined because it is the most common methodology for examining ingroup bias, it provides methodological homogeneity across studies, and it eliminates stereotypes and a history of discrimination as possible explanations of ingroup bias. The selection criteria resulted in 19 studies, with 51 separate tests of the ingroup bias effect, representing the responses of 2,216 participants across thirty years of research. This study examined how the cognitive connotation and affective intensity of evaluative trait terms relate to ingroup bias. Cognitive connotation was operationally defined as the intellective beliefs about a group, whereas affective intensity was defined as the subjective feelings about a group. Results suggest that cognitive connotation and affective intensity are significant and independent contributors to ingroup bias. These results suggest that a heavy emphasis on social cognitive explanations of ingroup bias, and by extension other intergroup phenomena, is not warranted. Researchers need to consider both cognitive and affective components of intergroup phenomena in their studies. Future research on ingroup bias could help to further delineate the contributions of cognition and affect by designing manipulations of the cognitive and affective properties of minimal groups. By varying the levels of cognitive and affective components of minimal groups, researchers could better understand the relative contributions of each to ingroup bias. Ultimately these studies may lead to interventions designed to reduce the serious and pervasive problem of ingroup bias.