In this social psychology episode of the podcast, we’ll be looking at What Social Groups Do for Individuals.
This episode has been sponsored by Social Psychology: A Guide to Social and Cultural Psychology Third Edition.
Chapter 3: What Groups Do For Individuals?
Throughout the book, you’re going to see a lot about social groups and their negative side from social influence to intergroup relationships. You’re going to see quite a bit of negativity surrounding social groups.
So, in this chapter, I wanted to stress that social groups can benefit us a lot.
Firstly, being a part of a social group gives us more interdependence and people can often achieve more in groups than alone. (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959)
I certainly know this from doing group projects at university because depending on the members of the group. A presentation or report can take half the time.
A classic example of this idea is trade unions (Veenstra & Haslas, 2000) because people who identify highly with the union are more willing to take part in conflicts compared to if they were alone.
Even people with low identification with groups are willing to take part in the action when it's in their own interest.
I did this in 2020 when Audible was (and still is as of January 2021) abusing authors by hiding return data and encouraging customers to read an entire audiobook that they loved and return it.
Yes, it’s great for the customers but authors are losing a lot of money to this ‘great’ benefit to customers.
Therefore, as I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and I identify highly with the group. I took action by signing some petition, cancelling my audible membership and telling people about the conflict.
Affiliation, similarity, and Support:
Another great benefit of being a part of a social group is grouping together with people who have the same attitudes. (Bairister & Leary, 1995) and the same problems.
This is a great benefit because it allows people to come together and talk about their attitudes. When it might not be a good thing to talk about their attitudes with other people.
For example, I would talk about my dislike for Brexit with my family and friends, but I wouldn’t talk about that topic to a lot of other people.
Furthermore, social groups allow people to feel understood, less alone, and befriended. This can be seen in people that are sad since they seek support. (Gray, Ishii & Ambady, 2011)
I Think This Benefit Has Definitely Been Proved By The COVID-19 Pandemic Because Let’s Face It We Are All Going To Die.
Therefore, People Look For Structure To Confront The Inevitability Of Death. (Greenberg Et Al, 1986)
This Is Provided by group norms, identifiers, values and human company. Also known as social groups.
Need for Social Identity:
We’ll discuss social identity a lot more in a few chapters time but social groups are great at providing us with social identity.
This is very important for reducing subjective uncertainty about the world. (Hoggs et al, 2008)
Let’s face it people love to be special and people want to be different and unique. This is where optimal distinctness comes in because people need to distinguish themselves (Brewer, 1991) but we need to affiliate with others as well.
Therefore, being a part of a group means we get to affiliate with others, but we get to be distinct members of that group and wider society as a whole.
Strategies for Optimal Distinctiveness:
There are a lot of ways to achieve optimal distinctiveness. For example, people can identify with a subgroup of a mainstream group. This allows us to be distinctive and socialize with other people. (Hornsey & Jetten, 2004)
Another strategy is to identify with a non-mainstream group and this is where my strategy comes in. As I’m an author and authors are hardly mainstream, so I get to socialise with other authors. Yet I’m distinctive in terms of I write books and I run my own creative global empire/ business.
You might have your own idea about this strategy. For example, if you’re in the UK then during your university years you might have belonged to a non-mainstream society. (club)
I remember one of my friends belonging to the Quidditch society, and yes that is the sport from Harry Potter.
Finally, people can achieve optimal distinctiveness by making themselves unique with a distinct role.
So, you might be the leader of the social group or you might make yourself important in the group. Like: in my university’s baking society I’m treasurer in 2020-2021.
Other Benefits of Social Groups Are:
· Positive consequences for the self
· They give us the motivation to protect the group
I really hope you enjoyed today’s social psychology episode.
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Have a great day!
Social Psychology Reference
Whiteley, C (2021) Social Psychology: A Guide to Social and Cultural Psychology. CGD Publishing.