Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT)
Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT) is a social model that attempts to explain why prejudice, negative stereotypes, and discrimination are developed towards members of other social groups. Socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and differing lifestyles are often examples of factors that separate people into different groups. RCT is a social theory that suggests that conflict can arise between different groups of people that have differing goals and are competing over limited resources.
When two or more groups are competing over limited resources (either from real or perceived scarcity) prejudicial feelings and negative stereotypes can develop towards the other group. Conflict and negative attitudes towards other groups can be reduced if both groups have a superordinate goal (a mutually beneficial goal for both groups in which both groups need to participate in order to reach the goal).
The most famous RCT research occurred in the 1950s with the Robber's Cave Experiment in Oklahoma. Two groups of young boys in a summer camp setting who were initially unaware of each other and which allowed friendship and norms to develop within in each group. During the next phase the groups were introduced to one another and competition was fostered between the two. After awhile prejudicial attitudes and negative stereotypes were each being attributed to the other group, including name calling and vandalism.