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In this lesson, we’ll learn about outgroup homogeneity, including how it compares to ingroups. Learn more about the effects of outgroup homogeneity from examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Important Definition

Suppose that Sarah and Janet are two college friends. Both are also on their school’s volleyball team. Sarah has just found out that Mike, her boyfriend of two years, cheated on her with another female student. Upon hearing the news, Sarah tells Janet, ‘Men are all the same, but us women are different. I bet Mike will never find another girlfriend as good as me.

‘Sarah and Janet are a part of the same ingroup, a group that a person is a loyal member of and strongly identifies with. Sarah and Janet are both women (ingroup) and volleyball players (ingroup). Once people identify themselves as belonging to an ingroup, they start to perceive differences between the ingroup members and the members of other groups.Everyone who is not a part of the ingroup belongs to an outgroup, a group that a person has no loyalty to and is not a member of. Since Sarah and Janet are both women, an outgroup for them is men.

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Since Mike is a man, he would be a part of the outgroup from Sarah and Janet’s perspective.So what is outgroup homogeneity? Simply put, it is the tendency for us to view members of outgroups as being more similar, or homogeneous, than members of ingroups that we belong to. Let’s look at Sarah’s statement more closely. Sarah perceives that men (an outgroup) are all the same; however, women (ingroup) are different. This is an example of outgroup homogeneity.Researchers at Princeton University conducted a study on outgroup homogeneity using four different student groups. Researchers found that students rated members of their own group as having a wider range of personality traits than they did members of the outgroup.

This effect was seen regardless of which group the student belonged to.

Are Outgroups More Homogeneous Than Ingroups?

Why do we perceived outgroups as being more homogeneous than ingroups? There is a combination of factors that lead to outgroup homogeneity:

  • We usually have more contact with people who are a part of our ingroups than we do with outgroup members. Therefore, our opportunities to learn about the individual characteristics of outgroup members are limited.
  • We organize information related to ingroups in more personal terms, whereas we recall abstract characteristics of outgroups.

  • Since we know that we will have more contact with ingroup members in the future, we have more of an incentive to make distinctions between ingroup members than we do outgroup members.

Research studies found that the effect of outgroup homogeneity is strongest when:

  • The ingroup and outgroup are real and long-lasting (as opposed to being artificial groups that are created in an experimental setting)
  • There is a large ingroup

Outgroup Homogeneity Effects

When we view members of an outgroup as having similar attitudes, values, and other characteristics, we risk stereotyping members of an outgroup. We might perceive all members of an outgroup as being the same.

For example, women may believe that all men are cheaters, or Democrats may believe that all Republicans are conservative. We perceive this sameness regardless of whether the outgroup is another religion, race, sex, nationality, profession, or any other group.The stereotypes that we make regarding outgroups influence our social judgements. For example, a woman who believes that all men are cheaters might decide not to pursue serious relationships. Democrats who believe that all Republicans are conservative may refuse to talk to Republicans about women’s rights.

Stereotyping can also lead to prejudice and discrimination. For example, Mike cheating on Sarah led to the prejudice, or negative belief that all men cheat. As a result, Sarah may discriminate against men by making offensive or derogatory comments about them.

Lesson Summary

Outgroup homogeneity is the tendency for people to view ingroup members as more diverse than outgroup members. An ingroup is a group that we belong to. An outgroup is a group that we do not belong to.

Outgroup homogeneity exists for many reasons, included our limited contact with outgroup members. Outgroup homogeneity can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.

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