Why Do Some Groups Enjoy Privileged Status in a Society

The social cycle of repression.

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Why Do Some Groups Enjoy Privileged Status in a Society
Jim Sidanius is the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in memory of William James and of African and African American Studies in the departments of Psychology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is pictured in William James Hall. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Since years, various scientists are trying to solve the mystery: Why do some groups enjoy privileged status in a society while others are left behind?

But now, scientists may have an answer on it. They think, it because of Social Dominance Theory. It is the idea that human societies are organized in group-based social hierarchies in which some enjoy privileged status and opportunities than others.

Scientists from Harvard University, the University of Oslo, Aarhus University in Denmark, and Victoria University of Wellington have found evidence linking social-dominance orientation.

Jim Sidanius, the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology said, “We looked to see whether or not there’s a relationship between crime rates, incarceration rates, levels of income inequality, murder rates, and an individual’s taste or preference for group-based inequality.”

This is the first study that examines social-dominance orientation across individual psychological, national, and international lines. It also focused on how these different levels contribute to the continuation of group-based inequality.

Lotte Thomsen, a former Harvard postdoctoral said, “What we see is a self-fulfilling process where greater societal inequality motivates the group at the top to use even violent means to maintain such inequality.”

“This, in turn, may lead to even more inequality and even extremist violence. This results in a vicious circle.”

Ryan D. Enos, an associate professor in Harvard’s Department of Government said, “If you have a society that has a lot of people with high social-dominance orientations, that’s going to be reflected in the policies of that society, especially in a democracy. At the same time, the aggregate features of that society are going to affect people and shape personalities.”

“This paper is particularly significant because it tries to close the loop between the personal, the contextual, and the institutional.”

Scientists are now planning to collaborate with researchers in other parts of the country to get a more ambitious attack on the problem.