The Power of Group Identity

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In Subliminal How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviour Dr. Leonard Mlodinow discusses findings from neurological research. Interestingly he discusses the power of identifying with a group. Such as our family, our co-workers, our gender, etc.  “Seeing ourselves as a member of a group automatically marks everyone as either an “us” or a “them”, an “in-group” and an “out-group”. This shared identity causes us to see our fate as intertwined with the fate of the group.

Dr. Mlodinow states that this group identity extends to our professional affiliations. In one study, researchers asked participants to rate the likability of people in their own profession. Doctors, lawyers, waiters, and hairdressers had to rate their likability on a scale of 1-100. Every participant was him or herself either a doctor, lawyer, a waiter, or a hairdresser. The results were consistent. Those rated their own profession with a score of 70. And rated other professions with a score of 50. However, there was one exception. Lawyers. Lawyers rated both those in their profession and outside their profession with a score of 50.

The researchers found that lawyers rated themselves lower because they were the only ones that regularly opposed each other within their group. “So while other lawyers may be in a given lawyer’s in-group, they are also potentially in his or her out-group”.

Generally people find other people more likeable merely because they share an attitude or trait with them. Dr. Mlodinow points out that this extends to our social and business dealings. “We evaluate their work and products more favourably than we might otherwise, even if we think we are treating everyone equally.” However, the more people find it advantageous to work together with people from different groups, the less likely they were to discriminate against one another.

 

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

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