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Whose Norms, Whose Prejudice? Formation of Intergroup Attitudes and Group Norms in the First Year of Secondary School

Luca Váradi
Thursday, June 24, 2021, 11:30 am


Ethnic prejudice can lead to conflict, segregation, and unequal treatment of minority group members. In many parts of the world, ethnic prejudice is sanctioned by social norms, while in places where prejudiced manifestations are acceptable, it can easily spread and normalize. It appears that Hungary is such a society with an overwhelming majority harboring severe prejudice against the largest ethnic minority group, the Roma. The question is, however, how norms guiding prejudice are formed and perceived, and why they are apparently resistant to change?

Adolescence is an age period when intergroup attitudes are still fluid and adjusting to the norms perceived as dominant in the peer group. Based on data from a recent two-wave panel study among 1100 Hungarian majority group adolescents (aged 14-15 years), the formation of normative climates in new secondary school classes and their relations with intergroup attitudes are investigated. Results show how young people, foreign to one another in the beginning, form a group and how the shared norms of this group are (mis)perceived and shape the members’ prejudiced attitudes. Besides analyzing group dynamics, individual characteristics are identified that make adolescents prone to following or resisting the norm of anti-Roma prejudice in their classes.

Discussion of the results will be embedded in the discourse of the role of education in prejudice reduction.


Luca Váradi is a former Marie Sklodowska-Curie research fellow and recurrent visiting professor in the Nationalism Studies Program at Central European University. Her research focuses on ethnic prejudices and especially on the formation of prejudice in adolescence.

Luca Váradi obtained her PhD in sociology at Humboldt in Berlin and afterwards served as a research fellow at Humboldt and at the University of Hamburg. She wrote her dissertation about the attitudes of Hungarian teenagers towards the Roma minority. Her book, ‘Youths Trapped in Prejudice’ was published at Springer.

Luca Váradi graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and specialized in ethnic and minority studies. She conducted research on migration and worked for the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Research Institute of Ethnic and National Minorities and for Menedék Organisation for Migrants. In Germany, she participated in the Interdisciplinary Institute for Conflict and Violence Research study on Group-Focused Enmity in Europe. Most recently, she conducted a panel study mapping the formation of common social norms in school classes and their effect on the intergroup attitudes of teenagers. Luca Váradi also works together with teachers and NGO-s to utilise research results for intervention programs against prejudice.

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