Ingroups and outgroups

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In sociology and social psychology, an ingroup is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an outgroup is a social group with which an individual does not identify. For example, people may find it psychologically meaningful to view themselves according to their race, culture, gender, age, or religion. It has been found that the psychological membership of social groups and categories is associated with a wide variety of phenomena.

The terminology was made popular by Henri Tajfel and colleagues during his work in formulating social identity theory. The significance of ingroup and outgroup categorization was identified using a method called the minimal group paradigm. Tajfel and colleagues found that people can form self-preferencing ingroups within a matter of minutes and that such groups can form even on the basis of seemingly trivial characteristics, such as preferences for certain paintings.[1][2][3][4]

Associated phenomena

The psychological categorization of people into ingroup and outgroup members is associated with a variety of phenomena. The following examples have all received a great deal of academic attention.

In-group favoritism

This refers to the fact that under certain conditions people will prefer and have affinity for one’s ingroup over the outgroup, or anyone viewed as outside the ingroup. This can be expressed in one's evaluation of others, linking, allocation of resources and many other ways.[5]

Outgroup derogation

Discrimination between ingroups and outgroups is a matter of favoritism towards an ingroup and the absence of equivalent favoritism towards an outgroup.[6] Outgroup derogation is the phenomenon in which an outgroup is perceived as being threatening to the members of an ingroup.[7] This phenomenon often accompanies ingroup favoritism, as it requires one to have an affinity towards their ingroup. Some research suggests that outgroup derogation occurs when an outgroup is perceived as blocking or hindering the goals of an ingroup. It has also been argued that outgroup derogation is a natural consequence of the categorization process.[8]

Social influence

People have been shown to be differentially influenced by ingroup members. That is, under conditions where group categorization is psychologically salient people will shift their beliefs in line with ingroup social norms.

Group polarization

This generally refers to the tendency of groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members, although polarization toward the most central beliefs has also been observed. It has been shown that this effect is related to a psychologically salient ingroup and outgroup categorization

Group homogeneity

Categorization of people into social groups increases the perception that group members are similar to one another. An outcome of this is the outgroup homogeneity effect. This refers to the perception of members of an outgroup as being homogenous, while members of one's ingroup are perceived as being diverse, e.g. "they are alike; we are diverse”.[9][10] This is especially likely to occur in regards to negative characteristics. Under certain conditions, ingroup members can be perceived as being similar to one another in regards to positive characteristics. This effect is called ingroup homogeneity.[11]

Postulated role in human evolution

In evolutionary psychology, ingroup favoritism is seen as an evolved mechanism selected for the advantages of coalition affiliation.[12] It has been argued that characteristics such as gender and ethnicity are inflexible or even essential features of such systems.[13][14] However, there is evidence that elements of favoritism are flexible in that they can be erased by changes in social categorization.[15] One study in the field of behavioural genetics suggests that biological mechanisms may exist which favor a coexistence of both flexible and essentialist systems.[16]

See also



  1. See "Kandinsky versus Klee experiment", Tajfel et al. (1971).
  2. Tajfel, H. (1970). Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination.
  3. Tajfel, H.; Billig, M. G.; Bundy, R. P. & Flament, C. (April–June 1971). "Social categorization and intergroup behaviour" (PDF). European Journal of Social Psychology. 1 (2): 149–178. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420010202. Retrieved 9 October 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Tajfel, H. (1974). Social Identity and Intergroup Behavior.
  5. Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D. & Akert, R. D. (2009). Social psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13814478-8. ISBN 978-0-13814478-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Brewers, Marilynn B. (1999). "The Psychology of Prejudice: Ingroup Love and Outgroup Hate?". Journal of Social Issues. 55 (3): 429–444. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00126.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Hewstone, Miles; Rubin, Mark; Willis, Hazel (2002). "Intergroup Bias". In Richard J. Crisp (ed.). Social Psychology. 3. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 323–344.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Zhong, Chen-Bo; Phillips, Katherine W.; Leonardelli, Geoffrey J.; Galinsky, Adam D. (2008). "Negational categorization and intergroup behavior". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 34 (6): 793–806. doi:10.1177/0146167208315457. PMID 18391025.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Leyens, Jacques-Philippe; Yzerbyt, Vincent; Schadron, Georges (1994). Stereotypes and Social Cognition. London: Sage Publications. pp. 104–107. ISBN 0-80398584-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Quattrone, George A.; Jones, Edward E. (1980). "The perception of variability within in-groups and out-groups: Implications for the law of small numbers". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 38 (1): 141–152. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.38.1.141. ISSN 0022-3514.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Jackson, Lynne M. (2011). The Psychology of Prejudice: From Attitudes to Social Action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. pp. 110–112. ISBN 1-43380920-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. L. Cosmides, J. Tooby and R. Kurzban (April 1, 2003). "Perceptions of race". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7 (4): 173–179. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00057-3. PMID 12691766. Retrieved 16 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. L. A. Hirschfeld (1996). Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture, and the Child's Construction of Human Kinds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Mit Press. ISBN 0-26208247-0. ISBN 978-0-26208247-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. F. J. Gil-White (August–October 2001). "Are Ethnic Groups Biological "Species" to the Human Brain? Essentialism in Our Cognition of Some Social Categories". Current Anthropology. The University of Chicago Press. 42 (4): 515–553. doi:10.1086/321802. Retrieved 16 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. R. Kurzban, J. Tooby and L. Cosmides (December 18, 2001). "Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and social categorization". Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 98 (26): 15387–15392. doi:10.1073/pnas.251541498. PMC 65039. PMID 11742078. Retrieved 16 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. G. J. Lewis and T. C. Bates (November 2010). "Genetic Evidence for Multiple Biological Mechanisms Underlying In-Group Favoritism". Psychological Science. 21 (11): 1623–1628. doi:10.1177/0956797610387439. PMID 20974715. Retrieved 16 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>