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Superordinate Goals and Microaggressions

Superordinate Goals

Superordinate goals is a term for the goals that need more than 1 person to achieve and thus need cooperation. The phenomenon of superordinate goals refers situations when the in-group/out-group opposition is involved – different groups or their members have to cooperate to succeed.

The Robbers Cave experiment, performed by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif, presents several examples superordinate goals, and the most clear is, probably, “The Drinking Water Problem”, when two groups, previously minded against each other which was the result of the first stage of experiment, faced the problem of the broken water supply. The threat of the growing thirst set the superordinate goal – to repair the faucet – and this goal has brought the two groups together. They cooperated and worked together, and when the threat was eliminated, they did not return to the previous confrontation and even allowed the most suffering boys to drink first, without worrying about which in-group they belonged.

Traditional and Modern Forms of Prejudice and Discrimination

The traditional forms of prejudice and discrimination can be characterized by several indicators. First, they have appeared before the movement for civil rights. Second, they were supported by the law, science, and society. Third, they were accepted as normal. And finally, traditional forms of prejudice and discrimination are much more obvious and easy to define. The example of the traditional prejudice is belief that women are biologically inferior to men which expressed through different forms of discrimination beginning from the relation to the woman as to the property of the man and finishing pseudoscientific reasoning of why women can not work or receive education.

In contrast, the modern forms of prejudice and discrimination are not transparent because formally they are not supported by law, science and society. This relates to that fact that modern forms of prejudice and discrimination appeared after the civil rights era so seemingly society does not realize them as a sound problem. Сontinuing the example of gender chauvinism, formally women are recognized equal to men but there is still a belief that women have had same opportunities as men through all the history and now we know fewer successful women just because of their poor abilities. Thus, they are still inferior, not biologically, but morally. This belief is reflected in concrete forms of discrimination, such as “glass ceiling”, disregarding women's achievments (like appropriation of scientific works, when we say that some man has 'made' a discovery and a woman just 'contributed' to it), pointing that childbearing is the first and the main task of the woman etc.

Generally, trying to assess the situation with gender prejudice and discrimination, I can assume that improvement occurs but develops unevenly. Comparing to patriarchal societies, American women are not exposed to open hostility when they try to claim their equality but a number of fundamental issues are still at play. For example, in the case of the birth of a child, the woman is expected to go on maternity leave to the detriment of a career. Or, which is much more obvious, woman's clothes are way less convenient and sensible. Or, when woman achieves professional success, media for sure will emphasize that she is a good wife and mother besides the career. Usually, when men achieves professional success, we don't care whether he is a good husband or father or not. So, we can see that while the main movement for the gender equality seems developing gradually, we still have a failure in some fields.


Microaggression is the way of expressing of the modern type of prejudice and discrimination which are insults, humiliations and bias against out-group members, expressed in words or in actions. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional. Microaggression have several specific features. First, the actor does not perceive his actions as discriminating. Second, is the actor is convinced that discrimination is a phenomenon of the past. Third, minority groups are represented as being too sensitive (for example, to jokes or statements). Finally, the existing inequality is perceived as the result of insufficient efforts of the discriminated groups.

I believe, microagressions are real expressions of prejudice and discrimination for several reasons. First is, the people who became the target of microaggression are definitely feel themselves inferior to the agressor. So, the main goal of microaggression is discrimination, modern type of it. The second is, those people who supposed to be the target of microaggression usually don't show similar microaggression toward others. And, finally, I am convinced that determination of the level of damage is on the victim. If someone says she became the target of microaggression, the microaggression took place.

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