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Social Psychological Theories on Social Inequalities

Jocelyn A. Hollander and Judith A. Howard
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 63, No. 4, Special Millenium Issue on the State of Sociological Social Psychology (Dec., 2000), pp. 338-351
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2695844
Page Count: 14
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Social Psychological Theories on Social Inequalities
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Abstract

Although social psychology focuses on the relationships between individuals and their social environments, it has often failed to fully incorporate actors' social structural positions (e.g., their location in the social hierarchies of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual identity). In this paper we analyze patterns in social psychology's approach to social inequalities, which we argue has been characterized by neglect, a focus on difference rather than on similarity, a tendency toward essentialism, and a lack of attention to social context and power. We then focus in turn on the three major theoretical traditions in sociological social psychology-social exchange, social cognition, and symbolic interaction-and summarize how each has (or has not) addressed the topic of inequality. We conclude by presenting four directions for future research that we believe will move social psychology toward a clearer understanding of social inequalities.

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