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In-Group and Out-Group

What do the terms In-Group and Out-Group mean?

In-Group - The term in-group is another way of saying the majority. The in-group is the group of people who feel they are different and better than those people who they are prejudiced against. Members of the in-group believe in certain stereotypes, which cause them to maintain certain social -isms. They are also responsible for discriminating against people who are different from them in some respect.

Out-Group - The term out-group means those people in the minority. The out-group is seen as different, abnormal, and often times less human than those of the in-group. Members of the out-group are the stereotyped by the in-group, and are the major victims of social -isms and discrimination.

An example of In-Group versus Out-Group is heterosexuals versus homosexuals. Heterosexuals see themselves as "normal" and are the majority, making them the in-group. Homosexuals, on the other hand, are seen as abnormal and unacceptable, which makes them members of the out-group. The members of the in-group stereotype all homosexuals, regardless of their personality or other individual qualities. Many heterosexuals are heterosexist (prejudiced agains homosexuals and bisexuals), and discriminate against these members of the out-group.


Ingroup vs. Outgroup

George is a werewolf. Whenever he meets other werewolves, he already knows some things about them: what they do on full moon nights, what their sense of smell is like, even some of the foods that they crave. He knows this because he belongs to the same group as them; they are ingroup members for George.

John, meanwhile, is a vampire. When George meets John, he doesn't know what John's like on full moon nights or what his sense of smell is like, and he's not sure if John eats meat or just sticks to blood. Because John belongs to a different group than George, he is an outgroup member to George.

Ingroup and outgroup classifications aren't just for werewolves and vampires. Everyone belongs to some groups; your race, gender, favorite sports team, your college, even the place you were born are all examples of groups. People like ingroup members because they know at least partially what to expect from them.

Because the other werewolves are similar to George, he is more likely to understand and like them than he is to understand and like John, who is from a different group. Likewise, people who root for the same baseball team may be vastly different from one another, but their common bond offers some similarities. All things being equal, people tend to like others from their ingroup more than from an outgroup.

Outgroup Stereotypes

But let's just say that George and John become friends. They get to know each other better, and George realizes that he likes being friends with John. As George realizes that he likes John, he also realizes that vampires aren't so bad. He starts to let go of the tendency to like werewolves more than vampires.

So is George cured of the outgroup-ingroup difference? Is everyone pretty much the same to him? Well, no. Even when people are exposed to outgroup members, they still hold certain stereotypes about them. This is because there is a tendency to look at members of our own group as being diverse and members of a different group as being the same.

When George looks at werewolves, he still sees all the differences between them: that one likes the woods, and this one likes the city. That one likes black-and-white movies, and this one likes modern action flicks. Seeing the members of your own group as a diverse set of people is called ingroup heterogeneity.

In contrast, despite being friends with John, when George looks at vampires he sees mainly the things that vampires having in common: fangs, love of blood, and that they tend not to be morning people. Seeing the members of a different group as similar to each other is called outgroup homogeneity.

Outgroup homogeneity is one basis for stereotypes. If you see the similarities between members of an outgroup, you are more likely to stereotype them. And unfortunately, many studies have shown that, even if you are friends with members of an outgroup, you're likely to cling to outgroup homogeneity.


Published:Dec 29th 2013
Modified:Jul 12th 2014

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