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Ingroup and Outgroup

In-Group and Out-Group

Sexism, along with racism and just about every other -ism in the English language is a manifestation of Western civilization and often results in in-groups and out-groups. By living our lives, not accepting other races, genders, religions, or political affiliations, we have created a society of in-groups and out-groups. The -ism labels are simply ways for us to categorize ourselves and for out-groups to do likewise.

In studying the concepts of in-groups and out-groups, it becomes fully understandable that our society has placed a burden upon us by making us think that it is necessary and even abnormal if we do not belong to some sort of in-group. People who do not appear to belong to in-groups are considered to be "outcasts" or "loners." An interesting question to ponder though, doesn't the fact that someone does not appear to belong to any in-group in fact make them part of an out-group of loners, which in turn makes them an in-group in and among themselves? The concepts of in-groups and out-groups enable us to categorize each other. Because of these distinctions, people are able to define who they are and what they stand for. But what are the roots of this classification system?

When looking at in-groups and out-groups, think about the following elements:

  1. Define and describe the following terms: prejudice, stereotype, discrimination, and ingroup vs. outgroup. Based on your own experiences in the social world, can you relate to any of these terms? Do you identify with a particular term? Why or why not?
  2. Examine the social, cognitive, and societal origins of prejudice and stereotypes. Be sure to include specific information regarding categorization, such as ingroup favoritism and the outgroup homogeneity effect, norms, competition for resources, and social inequalities. Of the categories presented, which do you think are the most significant in our society and in your particular community?
  3. Analyze the influences that promote stereotyping, and offer strategies to reduce prejudice. What are the consequences of stereotyping and discrimination? Who does this behavior hurt, and in what ways does it hurt them? Are we inadvertently creating self-fulfilling prophecies in our society? If so, how can we take steps to improve attitudes, judgments, and behaviors?

Basic life experiences and roles are shaped for us in our families. Many children reflecting back on their childhood can remember their earliest group activities as defined within the context of their families. Family vacations, Christmas celebrations, even Sunday dinners with extended family are all part of a child's earliest memories of group activities. Because of these close kinship ties, one gets a sense of belonging and acceptance. The need to continue this sense of belonging in a society causes us to search out those who are similar and bond with them.

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