How groups can influence people in negative and in positive ways. By definition a group is a number of people who are regarded as a unit. They are united by a shared interest or belief, be that religion, sport, or politics. All groups have their own identity, we as people have multiple ones. From a social perspective, an individual is often defined by who they are and what they do; a parent, a child or a friend, and by what line of work or study they are in. Cultural identity is defined by ethnicity, and group identity comes from having a sense of belonging, having a ‘them and us mentality’. This essay will look at how different roles and identities can influence social behaviour when belonging to a group, both in a negative and a positive way. Tajfel and Turner (1979, cited in spoors et al., 2011) developed the social identity theory, a theory that describes how belonging to a group forms a significant part in the individual group member’s self-concept. Having a ‘we’ rather than an ‘I’ concept. They suggest there are three key stages to joining a group. The first being social categorisation; this is for the individual to be given a label; Christian, gay, snob, Geordie, disabled are a few examples. The next stage is social identification; where the individual takes on the group’s characteristics and becomes defined by the group’s behaviour. The final stage is social comparison; members of a group view it from a positive point of view, often forming an elevated opinion of the group they belong to. People can take on defined roles when involved in group activity; influence on these roles can be from observing other members of the group’s behaviour, or a personal representation of the defining role. Zimbardo (1971, cited in spoors et al., 2011) conducted an experiment to determine how roles within a group can influence people’s behaviour. During the experiment participants were given a ‘guard’ or a ‘prisoner’ role. The experiment ended prematurely as...
References: Spoors, P., Kondo, D., Sherif, M., Taifel, H., Turner, J., Zimbardo, P., (2011) Starting with psychology, The Open University.
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