In this, the woman causing the trouble in the film acts from her impulse to be liked, and the fear of her husband should he find out the truth. The majority of the white group in the United States already accept racism as the norm; thus the white group in Sumner finds no difficulty in adhering to this. Any person deviating from this norm would then indeed be seen as deviant, and of course the fear of becoming caught up in the negative side of the conflict keeps individuals within the bounds of conformity.
Brehm, Kassin & Fein (225) further distinguish between public and private conformity. Public conformity occurs for the above reasons, but only for the purposes of appearance. There is no true persuasion. Private conformity on the other hand is true conviction. The person truly believes in the social norm and thus conforms to it. It is difficult to say how much true private conformity is depicted in the film. Public conformity is of course rampant, and all the members of the white group shows that they believe the woman's story. The woman herself however knows that this is not true, but again uses the social norm to give credence to her story. The white shopkeeper breaches the social norm by being involved and interacting with the black outgroup. However, his sense of superiority also depicts some conformity to the norm. Perhaps this shows his private conformity in that he truly believes his race is superior to blacks.
There are several factors on which the likelihood of conformity depends (Brehm, Kassin
Fein:227). The activation of social norms is to a great extent dependent upon the cultural orientation of a group. The possibilities here are an individualistic orientation as opposed to a collectivist orientation. The individualistic orientation makes it more likely that people will think and consider before conforming, whereas the opposite is true for the collectivist orientation. The collectivist orientation is mostly adopted by cultures where the group is fairly primitive, and survival depends to a great extent upon allegiance to the group. Greater affluence would then dictate a more individualistic approach. The culture within Sumner is neither affluent nor individualistic. The film depicts an ingroup need to be superior, whereas the black culture in Rosewood is more affluent and thus more individualistic. The likelihood of thoughtless conformity among the white group is greater than in the black group.
Another factor playing a role in conformity is the behavior style of the person attempting to persuade others in the group. This can be done by means of repetition, or indeed with an attitude of extreme confidence. The woman in the film has no authority whatsoever. She relies on her own desperation to be convincing, as well as the dominant social paradigm. Her white ingroup then feel themselves compelled to comply not as much to protect her honor as to protect their own self-esteem.
All factors work together to achieve the tragic outcome of the film. The mindlessness within the white group plays into the hands of the lying woman, which again used as an excuse by the group leaders, where mindlessness are once again used to persuade the rest of the group into reciprocity for the act. This is an example of destructive obedience (Brehm, Kassin & Fein:
Group characteristics also play a prominent part in the likelihood of unquestioning compliance to the social norm. The white group in Sumner has a specific group identity, which includes the group's perceived goals and fate. The group identity is stronger than individual identity, which is seen in the reaction towards the woman's transparent story. The white group demonstrates unquestioning belief, and a rather hysterical desire to avenge the crime.
The white group thus forces the ideal of homogeneity not only onto the outgroup, but also onto the ingroup. Individual differences, such as that the woman is a known tramp, makes little difference when the group ideal comes into play. There is thus an overemphasis on group differences, and a reciprocal underemphasis on differences among individuals within the group. The film then shows an ingroup striving for the ideal of homogeneity within itself, whereas homogeneity within the outgroup is assumed. All blacks are punished for the alleged crime of a single person.
Social influence then also plays a role in the formation of stereotypes. Brehm, Kassin & Fein (134) emphasize that categorization of both people and objects is used to save time and trouble in thought processes. In terms of people however the disadvantage here is that stereotypes are created. A stereotype in the film is then that blacks are automatically guilty of suspected crimes. Paradigms of the past, such as slavery, is also a reason for the kinds of stereotype prevalent in society even today. In the film it is assumed that blacks are inferior - this may be the result of the social influence of the collective past, where slavery was the accepted norm.
The reason for the untrue assumptions of both the inferiority and the guilt of the outgroup is closely connected to the reason for homogenizing the outgroup: there is little or indeed no personal contact with representative samples of the outgroup. Indeed, the relationship of the lying woman with a person from the black outgroup is of employer to servant, which naturally puts the servant in an inferior position. This fuels the already negative image of the outgroup in the social consciousness of the white ingroup.
Tragically in the film, the stereotyped predictions have become self-fulfilling prophesies. The original claim may not have been true, but later violence has spawned violence to a degree where nobody was certain of the truth anymore. Sanity appears to have returned only after mass destruction. The tragedy began with a lie; yet the untruth spawned half-truths and illusory correlations between outgroup behavior and possible truth (Brehm, Kassin & Fein: 139). In the film situational influence is not taken into account, and is indeed entirely disregarded in the light of what the white ingroup wishes to believe about its neighbors. Social influence thus causes automatic stereotyping of blacks as lawless, violent barbarians. The irony is that the worst barbarism is displayed by the white group, whereas the black group never does anything to initiate violence and in fact has learned to stay out of the way of certain white people in order to avoid violence and conflict. When the two groups are then examined in terms of self-esteem, it becomes clear that the level of self-esteem investment in the group itself becomes a determinant of the level of prejudice (Brehm, Kassin & Fein:152). The white group displays a high level of self-esteem investment, having little else to base individual self-esteem upon. The Rosewood group is more individualistic, having affluence and a generally better demeanor to base self-esteem upon. Social influence also causes the social dominance orientation of the white group to be higher than that of the black group, who has learned to be inconspicuous, and make as little trouble as possible. All these factors then play a role in the events and the violence portrayed in the film.
The events in Rosewood obviously portrays an escalation in conflict. One lie activates long-standing social paradigms of racial hatred, and soon the first act of violence is followed by retaliation, which is seen as a confirmation of the initially suspected "truth."
The experiments in conflict creation and resolution cited by Brehm, Kassin & Fein (148) appear to lead to the same conclusion as the film: it is easier to create than to resolve conflict. Conflict resolution would require a level of interaction with the outgroup. The various factors mentioned above preclude such a possibility for the Rosewood inhabitants.
Brehm, Kassin & Fein (148) then offers competition for limited resources as an explanation for the conflict in Rosewood. Indeed, the conflict does seem to be based on grounds more concrete than mere self-esteem issues. Land and money appear to also be at the basis of conflict among the white and black groups in the film. The white group, socially influenced towards a paradigm of white superiority, believe that most of the money and land offered by the United States should belong to them. There is absolutely no recognition that the inhabitants of Rosewood may have worked hard for the affluence they enjoy.
The result is frustration and resentment experienced by the white group. There is a further fear that whites as a group are falling behind, which escalates first the resentment and then the resultant conflict. This is referred to as "momentum of situation" by Brehm, Kassin & Fein (249). Other factors influencing conflict escalation is the increasing number of conflict sources, as well as situational and psychological factors influencing the group dynamic.
The original source of conflict is the lie. This is however not enough to spawn the wide-scale tragedy in the film. Indeed, conflict arose by means of influence. The woman's story is used…