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Collections of people that do not use the self-referent pronoun "we" but share certain characteristics e. Such collections are referred to as categories of people rather than groups; examples include: police, soldiers, millionaires, women, etc. Individuals form groups for a variety of reasons. There are some rather obvious ones, like reproduction, protection, trade, protest, and food production. But social categorization of people into groups and categories also facilitates behavior and action.
Social Groups in Action and Interaction
Because groups and categories help facilitate social behavior, you know who this individual is: a member of a law enforcement category like the police or highway patrol. In all likelihood, you do not have to question this individual as to why they are driving a special car with lights on it, why they are wearing a uniform, why they are carrying a gun, or why they pulled you over you may ask why they pulled you over, but doing so often increases the likelihood they'll give you a ticket.
In short, because you recognize that the individual driving the car belongs to a specific social category or group , you can enter this interaction with a body of knowledge that will help guide your behavior. You do not have to learn how to interact in that situation every single time you encounter it.
In fact, sociologists have long recognized the people experience much of social life by attempting to frame situations in terms they can understand. To accomplish this, people scan situations for information "given" e. Based on this information, people then act in ways they have been socialized to believe is appropriate for the situation. In the case above, for example, you as the driver would note the information given e. In so doing, you would be using the knowledge of groups at your disposal to manage the situation.
Such interpretive work combined with social categorizations to smooth a wide variety of interactional and interpretive experiences. Social identity is a theory developed by Henri Tajfel and John Turner to understand the psychological basis of intergroup discrimination. As developed by Tajfel, Social Identity Theory is a diffuse but interrelated group of social psychological theories concerned with when and why individuals identify with, and behave as part of, social groups, adopting shared attitudes to outsiders.
It is also concerned with what difference it makes when encounters between individuals are perceived as encounters between group members. Social Identity Theory is thus concerned both with the psychological and sociological aspects of group behavior. According to Tajfel and Turner, social identities are composed of three elements. We categorize objects in order to understand them, in a very similar way we categorize people including ourselves in order to understand the social environment.
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We use social categories like black, white, Australian, Christian, Muslim, student, and bus driver because they are useful. If we can assign people to a category then that tells us things about those people. Without an understanding of people's groups and categories, we would have a very difficult time functioning in society. Similarly, we find out things about ourselves by knowing what categories we belong to.
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We define appropriate behavior by reference to the norms of groups we belong to, but you can only do this if you can tell who belongs to your group. We identify with groups that we perceive ourselves to belong to. Identification carries two meanings. Part of who we are is made up of our group memberships.
That is, sometimes we think of ourselves as "us" vs. In other words, sometimes we think of ourselves as group members and at other times we think of ourselves as unique individuals. This varies situationally, so that we can be more or less a group member, depending upon the circumstances. What is crucial for our purposes is that thinking of yourself as a group member and thinking of yourself as a unique individual are both parts of your self-concept.
The first is referred to as social identity, the latter is referred to as personal identity. In social identity theory, group membership is not something foreign which is tacked onto the person, it is a real, true and vital part of the person.
Our groups make up part of who we are. The other meaning implied by the concept of identity is the idea that we are, in some sense, the same, or identical to other people. This should not be misinterpreted, when we say that we are the same, we mean that for some purposes we treat members of our groups as being similar to ourselves in some relevant way. To take the most extreme example, in some violent conflict such as a war, the members of the opposite group - the outgroup - are treated as identical and completely different to the those people in your group - the ingroup - which is made up of distinct individuals.
Thinking about individuals in one's outgroup in such a fashion allows the individual to believe that the enemy is deserving of death by dehumanizing them more on this below. Treating people this way allows us to justify otherwise unjustifiable behavior. A positive self-concept is a part of normal psychological functioning. There is pretty good evidence that to deal effectively with the world we need to feel good about ourselves.
The idea of social comparison is that in order to evaluate ourselves we compare ourselves with similar others. We often gain self-esteem by comparing ourselves with others in our group, particularly if we can claim membership in a prestigious group. The prestige of a group is also often created through comparisons that positively reflect on the group. In other words, people in groups choose to compare their groups with other groups in ways that reflect positively on themselves.
In fact, people are motivated to see their own group as relatively better than similar but inferior groups i. Inversely, people in a group may minimize differences between their group and another, slightly more prestigious group so one's own group tends to be seen more favorably i. Groups choose dimensions for comparison in order to maximize the positivity of their own group. Groups which perceive themselves to be of high status on particular dimensions will choose those as the basis of comparison.
Groups of low status will minimize differences on those dimensions or choose new dimensions. For example, people from some Middle Eastern Islamic countries might regard their country as inferior to the West in terms of economic and technological advancement but might regard their way of life as being morally superior. Intriguingly, the notion that inferior or "underdog" groups are hyper-motivated to succeed against superior groups turns out not to be true, generally. Members of a group or team will actually work harder when they are competing against a lower ranked group than when they are competing against a higher-ranked group.
Thus, members of higher status groups work harder when competing against lower status groups. In sociology we distinguish between two types of groups based upon their characteristics. A Primary group is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. These groups are marked by concern for one another, shared activities and culture, and long periods of time spent together. The goal of primary groups is actually the relationships themselves rather than achieving some other purpose.
Families and close friends are examples of primary groups. Secondary groups are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal-oriented. Some secondary groups may last for many years, though most are short term. Such groups also begin and end with very little significance in the lives of the people involved. People in a secondary group interact on a less personal level than in a primary group.
Rather than having as the goal the maintenance and development of the relationships themselves, these groups generally come together to accomplish a specific purpose. Examples of secondary groups include: classmates in a college course, athletic teams, and co-workers.
The distinction between primary and secondary groups was originally proposed by Charles Horton Cooley. He labeled groups as "primary" because people often experience such groups early in their life and such groups play an important role in the development of personal identity. Secondary groups generally develop later in life and are much less likely to be influential on one's identity. Building on the recognition of primary and secondary groups, sociologists often focus their studies on either group dynamics, group influence see the next section or a combination of these two areas of inquiry.
In terms of group dynamics, sociologists have long explored the ways people act in groups as a method for bridging individual and societal level forms of meaning making and activity.
Much research into group dynamics draws from the dramaturgical approach outlined by Erving Goffman , and refined by other Symbolic Interactionists throughout the latter part of the 20th Century. Utilizing the metaphor of the theatre, Goffman defined social life as an information game wherein people give i.
Specifically, people spend much of their lives attempting to demonstrate and affirm their membership within groups that are well regarded while distancing themselves from groups that are stigmatized within society. In so doing, people learn a wide variety of "signifying practices" or ways of showing others who we are and what we do within group contexts, which demonstrate group membership. At the same time, others will constantly "read" the presentations and impressions generated by this college student's signifying practices to guess what type of person they are.
For example, if a students is perceived to be wearing a cross, one might think one is a Christian, or if a student is carrying a Coach bag, others may perceive one has some money. Drawing on such information, people can then sort themselves into various groups, which may then establish specific codes of conduct and dress for members. Building upon Dramaturgical insights, sociologists developed the notion of "identity work," or the things people do individually and collectively to give meaning to themselves and others.
First, group members must define an identity into existence. For example, as a class we all might decide to call ourselves the dragon class. Second, group members must establish a set of codes or symbolic signals that allow people to tell others they are a member of a group. In our class example, we could say that members of the dragon class always wear pink on Tuesdays, calls things that are cool "fetch", and always skip whenever we leave the classroom while pumping our fists and laughing.
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While we would likely need to develop other codes as time went by to further demonstrate our group identity, these initial ideas would allow us to begin showing others we are members of a group. Third, group members must establish ritual occasions or opportunities to affirm our membership in the group. In our class example, we could pick meeting times outside of class to get together on Tuesdays when we're all wearing pink, and we could applaud, laugh, or pat others on the back whenever they use the word "fetch.
Finally, group members must come up with ways to police the boundaries of our group. In our class example, we would make sure to stop people when they used any term other than "fetch" to say something was cool and question group members that did not skip out of class. Specifically, we would seek to make sure others within the group behaved in the already agreed upon ways in order to make sure the group norms held. Through the combination of all these processes, we would have created a group identity and a set of norms to demonstrate that identity to others. A real life example may be illustrative here.
Imagine that you have just joined a new religion and you are learning what it means to be a member of that group. To do this, first you will go to other members of that religion to learn what the religion means, what its people believe, what items they consider important, and what actions are allowed for members - all of these would be identity codes. After you defined yourself as a group member, you would then need to adopt some or all of these identity codes so others believe you are a member.
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By adopting these identity codes correctly in the presence of other group members, you would gain affirmation wherein existing group members approve of your performance of these identity codes and welcome you into the group in some cases, there may even be a formal ceremony where you profess your membership and other group members affirm that profession.
Finally, you will begin to notice that other group members and over time you will do this to will check on you to make sure you are doing the identity codes properly.
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In so doing, they will police your behavior to make sure you still belong to the group. By looking at behavior both within and between groups, it bridges the gap between these interconnected approaches. The second edition is thoroughly updated to include new discussion of the biology and neuroscience of group formation, recent developments in social identity theory, and recent advances in the study of social networks.
It also includes questions for review and discussion in the classroom. It provides the most comprehensive and essential resource for courses on group dynamics and behavior.