Realistic conflict theory (CRT) is a social model that tries to explain why prejudice, negative stereotypes and discrimination are developed towards members of other social groups. Different socioeconomic status, ethnicity and lifestyles are often examples of factors that separate people into different groups.
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CRT is a social theory that suggests that conflict can arise between different groups of people who have different goals and are competing for limited resources. When two or more groups are competing for limited resources (from real or perceived scarcity) harmful feelings and negative stereotypes can evolve towards the other group.
Conflicts and negative attitudes towards other groups can be reduced if both groups have an ordered goal (a goal that is mutually beneficial for both groups, in which both need to participate in order to achieve the goal).
The most famous realistic conflict theory research took place in 1950 with the Robber Cave Experiment in Oklahoma. Two groups of young boys in a summer camp setting were initially unaware of each other, and the researchers allowed the development of friendship and norms within each group.
During the next phase the groups were introduced to each other and competition between the two was promoted. After some time, prejudiced attitudes and negative stereotypes were attributed to another group and the behavior underwent modifications, including insults and vandalism.