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Essay: Communities and community membership

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • Published: 2 November 2015*
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  • Words: 1,135 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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We may view ourselves as a group member of a community, a fraternity or sorority, a church, a sport, or a town. Each time we say we belong to one of those groups we classify ourselves with them and pick up some of the behaviors and beliefs of the broader group. David Myers discusses how identity is often understood in terms of our differences from others preferably known as ‘ingroup’ and ‘outgroup’. Myers then digs deep into conformity and talks about how even if an individual does not agree with the social norm, they will conform in order to avoid being the scapegoat of ingroup.
Individuals join groups for many different reasons. It could be that the group shares mutual goals or even at school while joining an assigned group in a class leads to a good grade. Each individual’s role in a group is important to the group’s objective. We often categorize ingroup members as people we feel connected with such as close friends and family. Part of our natural instinct to belong to a group leads to ingroup bias. Myers describes an ingroup as a group of people with a shared interest or identity. Ingroup bias is the favoring of one’s group. Such relative favoritism could reflect liking for the ingroup, dislike for the outgroup, or a combination of the two (Myers 106). Usually, ingroups form as a way to make one seem more superior to others and when the group is unsuccessful, we remove ourselves from association. In relation to sports, if our favorite team is winning, we refer to the team as ‘us’ and if the team is losing, we refer to the team as ‘them’. If ‘us’ refers the ingroup, then ‘them’ refers to the outgroup. Ingroups and outgroups can be just about anything depending on who the person is and their characteristics. It can be based upon family, and even ones eye or hair color.
The outgroup is a group in which an individual does not identify. Outgroup bias is simply the tendency to have negative views about people that are not part of one’s own group. The outgroup of one person will be the ingroup for another person. We often categorize outgroup members as members we feel detached from emotionally and psychologically such as strangers and opposing groups. We tend to call outgroups ‘outsiders’. In ‘On Communication’, Bohm states that people in different age groups, social classes, or different nations seem to not understand each other (Bohm 12). In order to live in harmony, we must be able to communicate freely and without holding to our own ideas instead of separating ourselves from certain groups we don’t agree with (Bohm 12). We categorize those who aren’t within our major or attend the same school as us, the outgroup. We know more about our ingroups than outgroup members, and are therefore more aware of the diversity of our own group members.
We tend to pay closer attention to things that serve our expectation and goals and that are distinctive from the group. Conformity refers to adjusting our behavior or thinking to fit in with a group’s standard. Myers explains conformity as a change in behavior or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure. Studies by Thomas Pettigrew in the 1950s shows that those who conformed most to other social norms were most prejudiced and those who in general were less conforming mirrored less of the surrounding prejudice (Myers 106). Prejudice offers an outlet for anger by finding someone else to blame. People usually conform to fit in with others or to reach personal goals by being in that group like trying to impress another member that they are attracted to. Bohm states, ‘Such communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other’ (Bohm 13). Myers believes that prejudice is not something people were born with, but something that the person chose to take part of or is embedded in them. Myers states that we can pat a friend on their back for their achievement except when that friend outperforms us on something that is pertinent to our identity (Myers 106).
George Bernard Shaw stated, ‘If we have come to think that the nursery and the kitchen are the natural sphere of woman, we have done so exactly as English children come to think that a cage is a natural sphere of a parrot because they have never seen one anywhere else’ (Myers 106). Children of women who have seen their mother elsewhere other than in a nursery or a kitchen are likely to have less stereotyped views from men and women. Bellah states, ‘Even though slavery has long been abolished, the issues of what it means to live in a society that believes all men are created equal, of how we treat each other are still very much alive’ (Bellah 184). Bellah says that communities are growing weaker because people do not feel obligated to help each other. People care about themselves more than others. If a person isn’t apart of one’s ‘clique’ or group, they don’t feel the need to interact with them. In my HMXP class for example, we often enter the social word on our phones to block out conversation and interaction with people in the class who aren’t apart of our ingroup. Myers asks if an enthusiastic loyalty to a particular fraternity or sorority lead to its members to deprecate independents and members of other fraternities and sororities. Positive feelings for our own group shouldn’t result in having negative feelings for outgroups. It appears to be some tendency for devotion to one’s race, religion, and social groups (Myers 106).
We pick up our attitudes from those around us. Individuals tend to conform without even realizing it by adopting the behaviors or values of other members of a group. We all need to feel accepted and therefore try to make ourselves similar to everyone else and look to the group to tell us what is right. Myers says, ‘In all this, there is a message of hope. If much prejudice is not deeply ingrained in one’s personality, then as fashions change and new norms evolve, prejudice can diminish’ (Myers 106). We often misjudge other groups and classify them as strangers saying that they are either ‘with me or against me’. In order for us to survive in the society we live in, people often feel the need to conform to be able to belong and take part in a world that is often cruel to the outsider. The groups we take part in are not always permanent. Some groups we outgrow and others we can never break out of.

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