Why do we need social psychology to fight antigypsyism?


  1. Why do we need social psychology to fight antigypsyism?
  2. Psychological interventions to reduce prejudice
  3. The unique characteristics of antigypsyism
  4. Best practice examples
  5. Recommendations


Antigypsyism is a key factor in the maintenance of the marginalised position of Roma people in Europe. Antigypsyism refers to the biased, generalized perception of Roma people (e.g. stereotypes), negative emotions (such as indifference, threat, fear), and negative intentions (e.g. discrimination, verbal expression of hostility, unequal treatment and the absence of helping and benevolent intentions) towards them. The problem is that efforts for the economic and social integration of Roma remain futile, if the majority society opposes their integration and prefers either that Roma people live in segregation or completely assimilate into the majority society [1]. In this context, politicians tend to be reluctant to take on issues to improve the situation of Roma people, especially if it requires efforts and resources from members of the majority population, and in the presence of the electorate’s prejudicial attitudes. In short, this social-political context enables that individual level antigypsyism concurs with institutional levels of discrimination [2]. Furthermore, public actors and politicians often use anti-Roma sentiments for political mobilization, creating a context in which antigypsyism is accepted and acceptable. Within this normative context the expressions of both solidarity and social change in favour of the Roma are hindered.

Social psychological interventions with an understanding of the connection between individual level processes and structural aspects of discriminatory practices (both in person-to-person interactions and institutionally) have real potential to tackle antigypsyism in Europe today. Where structural change is needed, individual agency becomes the drive for larger societal changes. Social psychological science explains how individuals experience everyday contacts and intergroup reality, as well as how they can use their group memberships to start and engage in efforts for social change. There are important historical examples that highlight the intricate relationship between individual and societal level social psychological interventions. For example, in the US, Allport’s contact hypothesis [3] was not only a powerful justification for school desegregation policies following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, it also clearly outlined the conditions of creating psychologically inclusive environments for Black children in the early years of desegregation (see Pettigrew [4]). Therefore, we firmly believe that understanding the individual level psychological processes that need to be targeted in antidiscrimination interventions and learning what really works and why, can offer substantial contribution to creating effective interventions, regardless whether they target smaller groups of children or whether they are large scale national campaigns.


Go to the next chapter Psychological interventions to reduce prejudice

[1] Stewart, M. S. (2012). The Gypsy menace: Populism and the new anti-Gypsy politics. London, UK: Hurst & Company.
[2] FRA (2018). A persisting concern: anti-Gypsyism as a barrier to Roma inclusion. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved from: https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/roma-inclusion/fra-opinions
[3] Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
[4] Pettigrew, T. F. (1961). Social psychology and desegregation research. American Psychologist, 16(3), 105-112. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0041995


The project “Identifying evidence-based methods to effectively combat discrimination of the Roma in the changing political climate of Europe” (Grant. No. 808062 — PolRom — REC-AG-2017/REC-RDIS-DISC-AG-2017) is funded by the Justice programme of the European Union (2014-2020).

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