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In-Group/Out-Group: Relationships and Attitudes

In-Group/Out-Group: Relationships and Attitudes

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand ways in which group membership affects people's perceptions and actions towards their own and other groups.

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We all belong to groups. And the groups we belong to influence our relationships and attitudes, sometimes in subtle ways. Sometimes in not so subtle ways. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk with you more today about the whole concept of In-Group and Out-Group. So, anytime we find ourselves as part of a group, for whatever reason, a common interest, a value, a cause, and we all belong to many groups, we see ourselves as more similar to the people in that group.

I think it's quite natural to realize that we're part of this group, the people in it are part of the group. It's our In-Group, and we're more like the people in that group. We perceive that, than unlike them. So, if we're more like them, the people in this group. This is "us". Then there's a "them", and of course the them would be the Out-Group, anybody who's not part of our group, and in some way we perceive them as different, dissimilar to us.

Now, this could be a minor thing. Perhaps it's gardening. I like to garden. So, I'm out in my garden, gardening. Maybe you like to garden, And I belong to a garden club, and so everybody was in that club is more like me, or similar. This is a little In-Group, our gardening club. People who don't like to garden, well they're not in the group, but it doesn't have to be any big animosity here, but there is this sense of similar and dissimilar.

Now, I'm going to put a term on the board called Attribution Bias because this is when this whole concept of similar and dissimilar can perhaps lead to some tension. So, what is Attribution Bias? Attribution Bias is a term that means that once we get into a group, and we really identify with it, we tend to give more positive traits to it.

So, we give more positive traits to out In-Group, and we tend to give more negative traits to the Out-Group. OK. So, since we're identifying with this group, and they're like us and for self esteem. We like to think positively about ourselves and our group. So, we want to think positively about our groups. We give positive traits. This could be any number of circumstances, little things.

We see here in the country, people who live on say either of the coasts, the east coast or California might tend to think, well, you know, I'm living here on the coast. That's where everything's happening. It's cool. Culture. Really know what's going on. We've got the good ivy league schools here on the east coast. Midwest. Well. Their kind of hicks out there. They don't really know what's going on. Fly- over territory, if you've ever heard that expression.

So, you live in New York. You're a New Yorker. Your proud of it, and you live somewhere in the midwest, and you have it viewed in another particular way. OK. Maybe by the New Yorker, whereas if you live here, you might say, well. In New York, they're just all fast paced, and out here in the midwest, we have strong values. We build character. We stick together. On the east coast, they're packed into cities.

So, you see what we're doing here? We're giving positive traits to the group we belong to, and more negative traits to the group we don't belong to. Now, this has tended to happen over the years with immigrants who come to the country. Whatever the group of immigrants, whoever they are, when they come to the country, they're not part of our in group. They're different. Their culture. Their music. Where they worship. The foods they eat.

Well, they can't be quite as good as the way we do things here. The foods we eat, the music we listen to, the way we worship, and so there's a real sense of us, our culture, our heritage, and them, and oftentimes you'll hear, you know, expressions like, those people.

So that's an example of Attribution Bias. We see it in school, and it starts early in school with peer pressure. We see kids forming themselves into groups. You might have the debate team, and the football team. And there might be tensions there, natural tensions there.

We've got gangs forming around Attribution Bias. You know, I'm part of this gang. You're part of another gang. In fact, many times that will lead to conflict. In fact, the stronger identification we have with any particular group, the more we're going to see that group is positive because we are really getting a lot of our identity from this group, and so the more positive we see our group then in opposition, the more negative we're going to see the Out-Group. OK.

And you could see that happening, and then that could lead to conflict when that happens. So, you can see this happening in this country, where I just talked about you got the people living on the east coast, in the midwest, and there's a little bit of friendly perhaps, rivalry here, and there certainly is Attribution Bias.

But once you begin talking about political parties, are you a Democrat, or are you a Republican? There are those who could have very strong feelings on either side to the point we now have the red states and the blue states. So oh you're in a blue state well that means or you're in a red state and the stronger you feel about your political identification or whatever value you put with that political identity, the stronger you are going to be in favor of your own group, and the more negative you're going to view the other group.

Now, this can really lead to conflict. Conflict starts here. Conflict starts here. Our perceptions about the other group here. How we see this group. The stronger we see them as negative, the more likely conflict will erupt. Whether it's gang members on the street or it's international politics. You could have a couple of countries who are seeing each other negatively In terms of what they're vying for, either within the country, we've got civil war breaking out, or perhaps between countries. Once again, it's this concept of them and us, only at this point it has the tensions have escalated to an extreme because of the perceptions that people have about the other group, the out group.

So once again we all belong to groups. We see ourselves as similar to people who are in our group. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. I think it's quite natural. We bond together with people that we have common interests with, but the stronger we begin identifying with our In-Group, the easier it is to see the Out-Group as negative, and the stronger those negative perceptions are, the more likely conflict will emerge from that because that's where conflict begins, with these negative perceptions about the other. So, thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Attribution Bias

A tendency to assign more positive traits to members of one's own group and to assign more negative traits to non-members.


A perception that things are not like each other; a perception that members of an out-group are not like members of an in-group in some meaningful way.


A perception that members of your in-group are more like you than members of your out-group.