Group perceptions

When we observe or first encounter a group we inevitably have an opinion of them, we use all available and necessary information to create a mental picture of that group, and the information we use will be all relative to who we are individually, our experiences and their general impression. As we know opinions and impressions of a group don't always stick and they can and do change the more information we receive about a given group thus changing how we may respond to them whether they're negative or positive. This post will be discussing two aspects of group perceptions; one theory will be regarding how the observer and the observed perceive group decisions and the other will be regarding how groups perceive other groups in relation to themselves.

Group Attribution Error
Studied by social psychologist Professor Scott T. Allison in 1985 the group attribution theory comes in two layers, where a group that makes a decision for a course of action the members within the group believe that the decision outcome was a result of group effort following group norms while on the other hand an observer watching the same group will attribute the decision outcomes as a result of the roles of each individual member of the group having their part to play with the decision making.

For example when a group of advertisers come together to make the decision for the type of advertising campaign they want to use and they all agree on the models they will use, the colour scheme, fonts etc and go ahead and create and their campaign. After their efforts the advertising campaign they all worked on turned out to be a failure due to not getting the kind of response they were looking for. In reflection the members of the group would attribute their failure as a result of the decisions made by the group as a whole while to the contrary an observer such  

as their manager would attribute their decision failures to certain individuals within the group. In other words group members usually believe that their actions are driven by the group as a whole while the observer believes the groups actions are driven mainly by individual personalities within the group. 


In-group bias
The idea that we favour people that we perceive as part of our group is quite a common one. As a result of this we act positively towards the people within our group while anyone who isn't associated with our group are seen as outsiders and therefore are tainted in a less than positive light. This creates an us versus them mentality and can of course be the root of any larger scale animosities such as rival gang fights, racial tensions and hostilities between whole nations.





 A common and smaller scale form of the in-group bias phenomenon can often be found in team sports such as football. Where if you support one football team you automatically assign positive attributes to the team you support and also view anyone else who supports the same team to be associated with your in-group and assign them with similarly positive attributes. Also this means that because you're a supporter of one team this would paint other teams and their supporters as outsiders or potential rivals, and this can result in the your team using such behaviours such as team chants/rituals talking about the other teams shortcomings to feel a sense of superiority over them and even using mockery all resulting in further reinforcing your preference to your own team. Contrary to the idea that being involved in a group depends on an automatic conflict to an outside group this in fact is strictly not the case though it can be a common theme. Marilynn Brewer Professor of psychology at Ohio State University in 2007 stated that people join groups to feel security and a sense of belonging and these qualities are in no relation to having a sense of conflict with other groups what so ever. 


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