Egoistic Relative Deprivation - Sample Essay

One of the major events that go on within the Big Brother house are the daily tasks. These denote how much money as a group the whole household will get to spend on supplies. With this comes failures and achievements, and depending on how well certain individuals do in these tasks, depends on how much money the house gets to spend. This can and does cause huge conflicting ideas between people and can often separate the house into groups.

This is one form of relative deprivation which could lead to many forms of aggression. Leading on from this, experiments were done by Vivian & Brown ’95, and have been able to show that members of groups tend to share the same notions of justice as these reflect the norms of the social group. The shared sense of injustice that follows perceptions of relative deprivation would explain uniformity behaviour in groups. Brown ’96 stated that

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‘Imposing subordinate goals is not always effective and may sometimes increase antagonism towards the out-group if the co-operation fails to achieve its aims (for example the daily task is failed). It may also be important for groups engaged in co-operative ventures to have distinctive and corresponding roles to play so that each group’s contributions are clearly defined. When this does not happen, liking for the other group may decrease as group members may be concerned with the in-groups integrity’.

This shows that relative deprivation is a deciding factor in aggression, but other psychologists go on to describe further into deprivation. One such example would be Runciman ’66 who goes much deeper to state that there are two different types of relative deprivation  Egoistic Relative Deprivation: is experienced if an individual feels deprived relative to other similar individuals. This could be seen as certain people are rewarded in the Big Brother house for unknown reasons just to produce conflict within the house. Fraternalistic Relative Deprivation: is experienced when members of one group compare themselves to members of another group. If the conditions in the two groups are such that one group feels that they are worse off than the other, feelings of relative deprivation may arise.

Consequently, the relative deprivation theory claims that it is not people’s actual negative circumstances, (absolute deprivation) that matter it is their relative deprivation as when people feel that they deserve more than they have got this can lead on to aggression and from that can come frustration. Berkowitz ’72 claimed that frustration due to perceived relative deprivation could incite aggression. In today’s society (like the Big Brother Household) relative deprivation can be felt more prominently in a modern society where there are a lot more daily items that are needed or can be take for granted e.g. alcohol or fast food.

The frustration aggression hypothesis which leads on from the relative deprivation theory states that frustration always leads to aggression and aggression is always caused by frustration. This explanation can be classed as social-psychological and psychoanalytic. Dollard et al ’39 proposed that the pursuit of personal goals involves the arousal of psychic energy. In the case of the Big Brother contestants personal goals would involve daily tasks and placing people up for eviction. When we attain these goals the energy is released, and when we fail or the goal is blocked (for e.g. the person put up for eviction is not evicted) then the energy becomes built-up (frustration).

This must be released and so Dollard suggested that it was via aggression. This then parallels with Freud’s explanation of aggression in which a person becomes aggressive from frustration and this anger is projected onto other, less powerful people or objects (scapegoat theory). The projection is a way of protecting a person’s ego from self-aggression. This projected aggression in a confined area with other people that share that same space leads to arguments and (as a result) aggression within the Big Brother house.

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