What is Scapegoat Theory?

Scapegoat Theory is a psychological concept that explains how people or groups can be blamed for the wrongdoings of others. It has been used to explain how certain individuals or groups become targets of blame for things that are not their fault. This theory has been used to explain a variety of social issues, including racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

The term “scapegoat” comes from the biblical story of the scapegoat, which was a goat that was sent into the wilderness to atone for the sins of the people. In modern psychology, the term is used to describe someone who is blamed for the wrongdoings of others, even though they are not at fault.

History of Scapegoat Theory

The concept of scapegoating has been around for centuries. Ancient cultures used the practice of scapegoating to explain why bad things happened to good people. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that a person’s fate was determined by the gods, and if someone was suffering, it was because they had angered the gods in some way.

The term “scapegoat” was first used in the 16th century by William Tyndale, who wrote about the scapegoat in his Bible translation. The concept of scapegoating was further developed by Sigmund Freud in his book Civilization and Its Discontents. Freud argued that people use scapegoating as a way to relieve their own guilt and anxiety.

How Does Scapegoat Theory Work?

Scapegoat Theory works by assigning blame to someone or something else for the wrongdoings of others. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as blaming a person or group of people for the actions of another person or group.

For example, if a group of people are responsible for a crime, they may try to blame someone else in order to shift the blame away from themselves. This is known as “scapegoating” because the blame is being shifted to an innocent person or group.

The scapegoat may be chosen because of their race, gender, religion, or another factor that makes them an easy target for blame. This type of scapegoating can lead to further discrimination and prejudice against the scapegoated group.

Examples of Scapegoat Theory

Scapegoat Theory has been used to explain a variety of social issues, including racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

One example of scapegoating is the way that African Americans have been blamed for the economic and social problems in the United States. This type of scapegoating has been used to justify discriminatory practices and policies, such as redlining and Jim Crow laws.

Another example of scapegoating is the way that women have been blamed for men’s bad behavior. This type of scapegoating has been used to justify discrimination against women in the workplace and in society as a whole.

Impact of Scapegoat Theory

Scapegoat Theory can have a negative impact on the scapegoated group. The group may be subjected to further discrimination and prejudice, which can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.

In addition, scapegoating can lead to a lack of trust between the scapegoated group and the rest of society. This can make it difficult for the group to get the help and support they need to overcome the challenges they face.

Conclusion

Scapegoat Theory is a psychological concept that explains how people or groups can be blamed for the wrongdoings of others. It has been used to explain a variety of social issues, including racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. This type of scapegoating can lead to further discrimination and prejudice against the scapegoated group, which can have a negative impact on their lives.

FAQs

What is Scapegoat Theory?

Scapegoat Theory is a psychological concept which suggests that people will often blame an innocent person or group for their own mistakes or misfortunes. This is done in order to deflect attention away from themselves and avoid taking responsibility.

What are the origins of Scapegoat Theory?

Scapegoat Theory has its origins in Ancient Greek and Roman religion and literature. The term ‘scapegoat’ itself is derived from the Hebrew Bible, where a goat was used to symbolically take away the sins of the people.

How is Scapegoat Theory used in modern society?

Scapegoat Theory is often used in modern society to explain why people blame others for their own mistakes or misfortunes. It is also used to explain why people are quick to blame certain groups of people, such as immigrants or minorities, for social or economic problems.

What are the implications of Scapegoat Theory?

The implications of Scapegoat Theory are that it can lead to unfair discrimination and prejudice towards certain groups of people. It can also lead to a lack of accountability, as people are less likely to take responsibility for their own actions.

Can Scapegoat Theory be used positively?

Yes, Scapegoat Theory can be used positively in some circumstances. For example, it can help people to take responsibility for their actions and to take steps to improve their behaviour. It can also be used to encourage people to take a more understanding and compassionate approach to others.


References

Aquino, K., & Reed, A., II. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1423–1440. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.83.6.1423

Morrison, E. W., & Miller, C. C. (2000). When it backfires: Negative effects of scapegoating in work groups. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 180–192. https://doi.org/10.2307/1556376

Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Behavioral consequences of stereotype threat: A meta-analysis of women’s responses in laboratory tasks. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 607–628. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.607