The article entitled "Morality and intergroup relations: Threats to safety and group image predict the desire to interact with outgroup and ingroup members" as written by Brambilla et al. is comprised of three different research studies. However, each of these studies explores different facets of the same phenomena: how morality within and outside of groups varies by type of threat, and what sort of behavior these threats elicit from these same groups (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 813). There is an extreme amount of relevance to the research conducted within this article and the principle research question of the present author, who is attempting to ascertain the meaning of relationships with moral development and reasoning in social groups.
Prior to stratifying the analysis of this paper to the three respective studies, it is necessary to mention various salient factors regarding the authors' approach overall to their research and their premise. There are a number of dubious aspects of the methodology that the authors employed. The principle weakness of the study is that the groups discussed within it are based on national and ethnic lines. It would have been much more beneficial for the researchers to study the effects of morality on groups that were more similar, and of the same race and nationality -- such as groups of financial professionals vs. those of legal ones, for example. Instead, however, the authors used Italians as their primary ingroup and Indians as their primary outgroup. There is a degree of ambiguity in using these terms however, as the reader must assume that Italians include only Caucasians (when there are individuals who have Italian citizenship who are not Caucasian, such as the aforementioned Indians). More importantly, the fact that there are prominent ethnic differences between these groups could influence the results of the study alone. Regardless of what other factors the authors were looking to test, it is important to note that in the research performed in this study (particularly in the first one) there were pictures of individuals involved. Everyone would like to assume that racism is over and a characteristic of the past, but despite whatever other variables the authors were looking to test (morality, competence, sociability, etc.) the fact that a Caucasian can look at a picture of someone of another ethnicity and then ascribe negative characteristics to that person may innately have something to do with race -- and not the factors the authors were looking to test. The authors should have considered this sort of bias when concocting the methodology for this study, since methodology is a critical part of a research experiment (Tuffin, 2004, p. 13).
In fairness, however, one must note that the authors made an attempt to mitigate the aforementioned possibility with a series of pretests. Such an attempt in and of itself is a potential strength of this work. Yet even in analyzing these pretests, it becomes apparent that they may not have been sufficient to overcome any sort of racial bias. One pretest involved 27 Italian students comparing the social statuses of Italians and Indians, whereas another involved even fewer students, 20, to evaluate the similarity of these two ethnicities and nationalities in terms of sociability, morality, and competence (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 813). Despite the fact that the results of both studies found that there were few perceived differences in the groups, it is worth noting that these pretests were relatively small compared to that of the three primary studies, which involved 83 students, 165 students, and 108 students, respectively (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 814 -- 817). The impressions of 20 individuals are not an accurate indicator of the impressions of nearly eight times that amount.
Furthermore, it worth mentioning that none of these tests actually gauged the impact of racism on Italians in general, and proclivities to stereotype and to profile individuals simply because of how they look, the sound of their name, or any other ethnically or nationally distinguished characteristic. This variable was not accounted for, despite all of the others pertaining to morality, competence, and intentions of behavior. It seems as though the authors should have anticipated such a fact, especially since a large part of what they were researching pertains to "experience of the threat" (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 812).
It is important to understand that the studies utilized within this article sought to serve as methods of checking and explicating the results found in previous studies. Therefore, there is a degree of importance attached to the first study which somewhat supersedes that of the others, since it serves as the basis for the intentions of the other studies. The specific research question designed for the first study revolved about three hypotheses which the authors refer to as predictions. The first prediction was "that moral information impacts upon behavioral tendencies towards ingroup as well as outgroup members," the second was that "group image threat should mediate the effect of moral characteristic on the intention to interact with ingroup members," whereas the third was that "threat to group safety should mediate the effect of morality trait related information" as intended for group members" (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 814). Additionally, the purpose of this particular study was to change the degree of morality imputed to both Indian and Italian people, in order to determine how doing so would affect these three hypotheses.
Considering the weaknesses attributed to this article and the research performed within it overall, one may state that regardless of those areas of improvement, the design for study one was adequate. The study was largely quantitative in nature, with qualitative values (such as those relating to both morality as well as nationality) assigned quantitative values or numbers with which the data were computed. However, a large part of the data ascertained within this study directly correlated to a picture of Indians, which certainly induces a bias towards racism (Brambilla et al., 2013, p.814). This fact is corroborated by the notions that the authors decided to "make saliently nationality as a relevant social category (Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 814). Not surprisingly, the results indicated that those of a low moral standards received low evaluations from the participants, while those of high moral standards received high marks. Subsequently, the intention of behavior based on the morality scores revealed that those with low morality scores incited more threat than those with high morality scores. All of these findings were in accordance with the hypotheses of the researchers (Brambilla et al., 2010, p. 814).
Ultimately, study 1 provided data that indicated that group safety threat was the deciding factor that resulted in a direct relationship with behavioral intentions. The researchers were attempting to discover if the aforementioned variable or group image threat (which is the name of the variable in which the image and social status of a group is linked) was the more relevant factor in computing behavioral intentions, and it was the former, not the latter. The subsequent quotation underscores this point.
Study 1 yielded initial support for our predictions, as only group image threat mediated the effect of information about the target's morality on the intention to interact with an ingroup member & #8230;By contrast…only the experience of threat to group safety mediated & #8230;behavioral intentions toward an outgroup member
(Brambilla et al., 2013, p. 815).
As such, the measurement concerns of the study exceed beyond the effect of group image threat and morality, which were the two primary measurement concerns of the study.
Again, it is relevant to note that these findings are in congruence with the hypotheses of this study and with its research question, which makes them generalizable. However, it is pivotal to understand that the degree of bias based on racism (which the researchers attempted to address with their cognizance of nationality) may also have influenced the data and, subsequently, the findings.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As mentioned in the introduction, the principle weakness of this study is the fact that there is a bias towards ethnicity and nationality due to the subjects and targets selected. However, it is worth mentioning that a particular strength of the study is the conscientious way in which the researchers categorized their results, which varied according variable, mediation, threat experience and Behavioral intentions.
Study 2 functions as an extension of study 1 and is largely based on the findings of the latter study. The same three hypotheses remain for study 2 which were utilized in study 1. However, there was a significant transition in the research question of study 2, which directly related to the results of study 1. Study 2 was focused on switching the variable that was examined. Instead of morality, which was the chief variable analyzed in the first study, the second study was designed to see if there were any other type of positive behavior (not related to morality)…