We are -not equally involved in all our in-groups. One might, for example, be a passionate Democrat and a rather indifferent Rotarian. Nor do we feel equally distant from all our out-groups. A loyal Democrat will feel far closer to the Republicans than to the Communists. Bogardus [1958, 1959] and others [Westie, 1959] have developed the concept social distance to measure the degree of closeness or’acceptance ‘ feel toward other groups. While most often used with reference to racial groups, social distance refers to closeness between groups of all kinds (see Table 8-1). ‘. Social distance is measured either by direct observation of people interacting, or more often by questionnaires in which people are asked what kind of people they would accept in particular relationships. In these questionnaires, a number of groups may be listed and the informants asked to check whether they would accept a member of each group as a neighbor, as a fellow worker, as a marriage partner, and so on through a series of relationships
A social-distance test, administered to white students in the United States in 1972, showed a low (favorable or neutral) social distance score for all.groups. A ‘sin test administered to South African whites about the same time indicated a high rate of social distance, The South African social distance was great not only between white and black but also between white South Africans and recent European immigrants to that country’ [Lever, 1972; Brown, 1973]. Thus, while in groups and out-groups are found in all societies feelings of social distance are greater in some societies than in others The social-distance questionnaires may not accurately measure what people actually would do if a member of another group sought to become a, friend or neighbor. The social distance scale is only an attempt to measure one’s feeling of unwillingness to associate equally with a group. What a person will actually do in a situation also depends upon the circumstances of the situation (situation determinants of behavior), which will be illustrated at some length in the chapter on race and ethnic relations.