Every interaction with another person is a chance to discover something new. And the way we view every interaction depends on the lens we use to look at it. The Psychology of Groups argues that people are, undeniably, more often in groups rather than alone. This phenomenon describes how we see ourselves in relation to the group we belong to. Therefore, every interaction we have is based on how we view different groups of people.
What does Psychology of Groups mean?
People are able to be alone, but they prefer being part of a group as it meets their social and psychological needs. Furthermore, people will often choose inclusion over exclusion, membership over isolation, and acceptance over rejection. It is normal for all of us to have a need to belong. For us to feel that we are a part of something. And we fulfill this need by joining (subconsciously) a group.
Consequently, when we don’t satisfy the need to belong, we humans respond negatively. For instance, university students who move away from home find their first couple of months difficult because they are far from family and friends. But they do not find it difficult if they are part of a cohesive, socially satisfying group.
Being part of a group brings feelings of happiness and satisfaction. But being rejected from a group can cause feelings like aggression, confusion, and depression. Studies show that when being rejected, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula in the brain display heightened activity. These areas of the brain are associated with the experience of physical pain. Rejection from a group can cause literal pain.
Personal Sense of Identity in the Psychology of Groups
Our sense of who we are comes from our experiences, traits, and capabilities. But that’s not all it is. Our sense of identity also stems from qualities from memberships in groups. It enhances our self-worth. If something affects us personally, we can look at the group and still feel proud. And this feeling of pride comes from comparing one group to another. When evaluating different groups, we find that we are part of the better group. Which makes us feel better and boosts our self-esteem and sense of identity.
The social identity theory describes a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership. Tajfel (1979) says that the group you belong to is the source of pride and self-esteem. Therefore, groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.
Furthermore, we don’t just categorize other people. We categorize ourselves. So for example, if we categorize university students as intellectual, then we will think that we are intellectual (if we are part of that group).
Group Identity and Interactions with People
From the information given above, it is sufficient to deduce that our default nature is to be a part of something or a group. Therefore, we believe that everyone else is a part of something too. Thus, we group people according to what we think they seem to be part of. And we categorize those groups according to what we hear, see, and experience.
This can be dangerous because not all groups are as we see them on the outside. We may think that housewives sit at home all day and do nothing. Or that all working dads never spend time with their children. But this is not the case for all members of those groups.
Many people treat others according to how they categorize the group they believe others are a part of. And how we categorize people may come from a place of miseducation, misinformation, and unfair bias. In 2021, it’s very difficult to blame something on “I didn’t know”, when information is available at our fingertips. All we need to do is unlock our phone and type it on google. Or even ask someone, or better yet, ask someone from outside your group! Information is all around us. All we need to do is be open to learning.
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