Relations between social groups and their members are influenced by and influence how people perceive and judge each other. The way how people process information about others in fact represents an antecedent and consequence of intergroup relations. The present chapter illustrates how general cognitive mechanisms in processing information can lead to biases in perceiving and judging social groups and their members that in turn can influence intergroup relations. We will illustrate this by first, explaining how people process information in general and social information in specific. In specific, we will draw on social categorization and self-categorization and schema activation and application. Then, we will explain biases relevant for intergroup relations that arise at least in part from how people process social information along with attention and general learning mechanisms. We highlight category accentuation, outgroup homogeneity, ingroup favouritism complemented by outgroup derogation, and stereotyping. The underlying processes of the biases in perceiving and judging others can occur in an automatic fashion. Despite the potential automaticity involved, we highlight the crucial influence of people’s goals and motivation in influencing these biases. We end the chapter with a discussion how these intergroup biases complemented by confirmation biases that maintain and fortify the intergroup biases can contribute to collective conflicts.

Keywords: social cognition, ingroup favouritism, intergroup bias, categorization, category accentuation,
outgroup homogeneity, stereotyping, automaticity, confirmation bias, collective conflicts

Jenny Roth
Jenny Roth is an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She received her PhD from the University in Jena, Germany in 2010. Her research mainly investigates social identities and intergroup relations from a social cognitive perspective.

Jack Loughnane
Jack Loughnane is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Limerick, Ireland. His PhD studies are funded by the Irish Research Council. His primary research project investigates multiple group identification and intergroup attitudes from a cognitive consistency perspective.