In recent years, minimal intergroup situations (MIS) have emerged as a unique and powerful tool for studying intergroup relations. An MIS is a type of experimental situation in which two or more social groups interact in a setting that is stripped of any non-essential elements that might be otherwise present in a more complex intergroup setting (Brewer, 2002). This type of setup allows researchers to study how groups interact in an environment that is relatively free of extraneous factors, allowing for more precise and controlled results. In this article, we will explore the various ways in which MIS has been used to study intergroup relations, including its advantages and limitations.

MIS has been used to explore a wide variety of topics related to intergroup relations, including how groups interact with each other, how attitudes and stereotypes affect behavior, and how prejudice and discrimination manifest in different contexts (Brown & Hewstone, 2005). In a classic study by Tajfel and Turner (1979), MIS was used to examine how intergroup perceptions and attitudes influence behavior. In this study, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups and then asked to divide resources between their own group and a second group. The results showed that the participants were more likely to favor their own group than the other group, suggesting that even in minimal intergroup situations, intergroup biases can arise.

MIS has several advantages over other methods for studying intergroup relations. First, due to its controlled environment, MIS allows for more precise and accurate results, as extraneous factors are eliminated. Furthermore, since MIS often involves only a few participants, the cost of conducting such research is relatively low (Brown & Hewstone, 2005). Finally, MIS can be used to study a wide variety of topics related to intergroup relations, making it an invaluable tool for researchers seeking to understand the complexities of intergroup relationships.

Despite its advantages, MIS also has certain limitations. For example, since it involves only a few participants, it may not provide a comprehensive picture of intergroup dynamics. Furthermore, the results of an MIS may not be generalizable to larger groups or real-world situations. Finally, since MIS experiments occur in a highly controlled environment, it is possible that participants may behave differently than they would in a real-world situation (Brown & Hewstone, 2005).

Overall, MIS is an important and powerful tool for studying intergroup relations. Although it has certain limitations, its advantages in terms of cost, convenience, and control make it a valuable resource for researchers seeking to study the complexities of intergroup dynamics.


Brown, R., & Hewstone, M. (2005). An introduction to intergroup relations. Annual Review of Psychology, 56(1), 583-604.

Brewer, M. B. (2002). The psychology of intergroup relations. In S. E. Taylor & S. E. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (4th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 554-594). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33-47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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