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Using the Allport Scale on Virtual Societies

If you are developing any scenario or social order in a virtual environment where prejudice is manifested in any way, shape or form, whether as part of a storyline for entertainment, edutainment, or straight education of effects, then the Allport scale is a very useful tool to use to model your society by.

Allport's Scale is a measure of the manifestation of prejudice in a society. It was devised by psychologist Gordon Allport in "The Nature of Prejudice (1954)".

1. Antilocution
2. Avoidance
3. Discrimination
4. Physical Attack
5. Extermination

This may seem academic, and cut and dry, but if we run through it, in a society created for the purpose of this article, it should start to make some sense.

The village of Khronusbury is nestled between the giant fungii stalks on the wide plain of snookiplem. In it's strange misshapen houses, carved out of the shells of giant fungii-eating crustaceans, live a race of green, sentient, intelligent, tool-using lizards called the hartleflax. The hartleflax form a peaceful community for the most part, but their race are warriors when called upon to be such.

Some of the hartleflax have round heads with bulging eyes. Others have delicate, pointing heads, which taper at both ends. Other than that, they are identical in form, and each is just as capable as the other, at most activities.

Occasionally, one of the round-headed hartleflax will point a jibe at one of its pointy-headed brethren, reminding it how inferior a pointy head is to a round-headed. They may fling minor insults, or compare the pointy heads to some distasteful item. In general the pointy-heads don't respond to this, tolerating it. This is because in the rare instances a pointy-head does snap, the round heads take afront, because its 'just joking around', the pointy head is 'overreacting', and becomes the singular butt of the round-head's jokes for the next few days, to 'put them back in their place'.

This activity carries on in the general background chatter, perhaps barely remarked upon by visitors.

This is Antilocution stage 1. Antilocution occurs when one group makes jokes about another group based on their differences. It seems harmless.

Antilocution begins with simple name-calling, develops into stereotyping, and all pointy-heads become the target of ridicule. Then the ridicule intensifies over time, becoming much more pronounced. The situation quickly becomes intolerable for the pointy-heads, and they tend to cluster together, staying out of the round-head's way as much as possible. For visitors to the settlement, they see pointy-heads crossing the street to avoid round heads, and keeping their heads down, avoiding eye-contact. Round heads remain aloof, and shun the pointy-heads.
Stage 2: Avoidance is reached.

No direct harm may be intended, but harm is done through isolation - social avoidance. Round heads naturally start restricting pointy-heads from meeting with them, drinking in the same tavern, attending the same hunts.
Stage 3: Discrimination is reached.

Avoidance and discrimination only go so far. The pointy-heads are still around, but the round heads view them with increasing intolerance. This situation can only hold so long before one of the round head takes a weapon to a pointy-head, perhaps annoyed at how the pointy-heads aren't responding to their jokes with rage any more, or, more usually, at how these worthless creatures are allowed to keep on being there, when everyone knows they are less than the round-heads.
Stage 4: Physical attack.

With one pointy-head wounded, it spurs others on. A mob mentality is reached and gangs of young round heads take it upon themselves to smash pointy-heads.

Once you have groups acting out their prejudice with physical violence, it is not a great step from believing ideologically that all the pointy-heads must die.
stage 5: Genocide.

The whole thing is logarithmic - it starts out small, with antilocution. Small changes over time. Then it picks up speed. By the time genocide is reached, there is usually no turning back, and things are over in a flash.

This level of social disturbance is usually countered by the settlement's law enforcement - kept in check as it were, but use of the Allport scale like this in a virtual community can open up the player or participant's mind to how easy it is for the situation to become out of control.

Even better, if their avatar is a pointy-head.

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