An in-group refers to a group one belongs to and believes to be an important part of who they are. In contrast, an out-group is a group one does not belong to, and individuals tend to feel some form of competition or disdain for the other group members (Griffiths 119). One in-group I belonged to was the soccer team in high school. Soccer was a very important sport at our school, and we often received various privileges for belonging to the soccer team. We often went on trips and met regularly after school hours to discuss important and non-important issues. We always had a kind of “beef” with basketball team members. We did not like it when basketball team members received some of the privileges we had on the soccer team. We always competed for recognition, fans, and funding. However, whenever we had competitive games outside school, it would not be the basketball team against the soccer team but our school teams against the competitor’s teams. A reference group refers to a group that individuals use to compare themselves to, as such groups are considered the standard of measurement (Griffiths 120). Most times, my peers are usually my reference group.
While in high school, there was a time that we organized a nature trip up-country to get away from the busy city life and also get to explore new places. The group was composed of around 30 people. While in the upcountry, we passed by a certain mango garden with ripe mangoes. One of the members mischievously picked a mango from the tree and started eating. This caused other members to start laughing, and a while later, everyone else was picking and eating mangoes from the trees; shortly afterward, we saw the owner and ran away.
When individuals are in groups, they tend to conform to the norms of that group. Conformity refers to the change in an individual’s behavior to accompany a group, even though they might disagree with the group (Lumen). In one way or another, groups offer protection against individual responsibility. For instance, in my case, it was easier for all of us to comply in stealing those mangos as opposed to only one person stealing since no particular member would be held responsible for the negative actions. Furthermore, failure to comply would only result in ostracization by other members. Since individuals always desire to belong, they find it easier to conform even when they do not share the same beliefs as the group.
The double standard of behavior in groups refers to the concept whereby one standard applies to one group but not to another. This means that the same behavior performed by one group is considered unacceptable when members of another group perform it. In-group favoritism is one of the reasons why there are double behavior standards in groups. According to Nakamura and Naoki, in-group favoritism causes members of a certain group (in-group) to treat out-group members differently (2). This would mean that actions, even negative actions, that members of an in-group perform would be considered unacceptable when members of the out-group perform them. Such double standards are also applicable among leaders, whereby some behaviors among leaders might be tolerated, but when performed by regular members, they could attract some penalties.
Griffiths, Heather Nathan. Introduction to Sociology (2e). OpenStax, 2017.
Lumen. Introduction to Psychology. 2021, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-psychology/chapter/conformity-compliance-and-obedience/
Nakamura, Mitsuhiro, and Naoki Masuda. “Groupwise information sharing promotes in-group favoritism in indirect reciprocity.” BMC Evolutionary Biology, 12.1 (2018): 1-12.
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Within Chapter 6, we are in the social psychology territory. So, all these micro-level analyses are based on symbolic interaction perspectives. If you like to learn more about groups and organizations, please take social psychology courses. However, social inequality and tension in groups and organizations can also be observed. Even if you see these tensions at individual levels, you should consider how social structures shape these tensions and inequalities.
Please discuss and answer the following questions regarding group behavior.
Discuss in-group and out-groups you have experienced. How did these shape your life? What is a reference group?
Describe a situation in which you have given in to group pressure to do something very much against what you wanted. Write a small paragraph analyzing why groups have such power over us.
Explain what the “double standard of behavior” means in groups. Why is the same behavior performed by a different group seen as negative, but it is acceptable for members of your in-group to achieve the same behaviors?
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