7.1: In- and Out-Groups
People all belong to a gender, race, age, and social economic group. These groups provide a powerful source of our identity and self-esteem (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and serve as our in-groups. An in-group is a group that we identify with or see ourselves as belonging to.
A group that we don’t belong to, an out-group, is a group that we view as fundamentally different from us. For example, if you are female, your gender in-group includes all females, and your gender out-group includes all males. People often view gender groups as being fundamentally different from each other in personality traits, characteristics, social roles, and interests.
Because we often feel a strong sense of belonging and emotional connection to our in-groups, we develop in-group bias: a preference for our own group over other groups. This in-group bias can result in prejudice and discrimination because the out-group is perceived as different and is less preferred than our in-group. One function of prejudice is to help us feel good about ourselves and maintain a positive self-concept. This need to feel good about ourselves extends to our in-groups: We want to feel good and protect our in-groups. We seek to resolve threats individually and at the in-group level. This often happens by blaming an out-group for the problem. Scapegoating is the act of blaming an out-group when the in-group experiences frustration or is blocked from obtaining a goal (Allport, 1954).
Despite the group dynamics that seem only to push groups toward conflict, there are forces that promote reconciliation between groups: the expression of empathy, of acknowledgment of past suffering on both sides, and the halt of destructive behaviors.
The Cats and Rabbits in This Video
The cats and rabbits were used as a metaphor here, representing the in- and out-groups of your choice. For instance, if you're a sports fan, maybe you can think of your team versus an opposing team.
This text is adapted from OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX.