Costs of Group Membership

Belonging to groups has its price, however; as discussed at length by Christian Buys, one's very membership in a group may carry with it hidden costs, risks, or sacrifices. A more complete understanding of groups requires a consideration of this aspect of membership in a group. Attaining certain types of rewards may be incompatible with belonging to a group. For example, the goal of completing a difficult and complicated task may be facilitated by belonging to a group of coworkers who bring the varied skills and knowledge required for successful task completion. Yet one group mem ber's goal of always being the center of attention, or of needing to feel special and unique, may have to be subverted if the group is to perform the task for which it formed. What the individual wants or needs may sometimes be displaced by what the group needs.

Moreover, the deindividuation (an individual's loss of self-awareness, resulting in a breakdown in the capacity to self-regulate) fostered by groups breaks down the individual's ability to self-regulate. Research has demonstrated the state of deindividuation to increase the (simulated) electric shocks people will deliver to other people in experiments, to increase the use of profanity, and to increase stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. The paradigmatic illustration of the negative effects of deindividuation is the lynch mob. An analysis of newspaper accounts, conducted by Brian Mullen, of lynch mob atrocities committed in the United States over a sixty-year period showed that the savagery and atrocity of the mob toward its vic-tim(s) increased as the size of the mob increased relative to the number of its victims.

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