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小圈子 Their in-group?

中国日报网 2018-07-17 11:24


Reader question:

Please explain “their in-group” in this sentence: As a consequence, the Chinese tend not to trust people outside their in-group.

My comments:

Not just the Chinese. Anyone who finds him/herself in a group competing with other groups tends to be that way – trusting one of their own rather than any outsiders.

But to be fair, the Chinese are perhaps particularly good (or bad, depending on your preference) at this, forming circles – and circles within circles. The smaller the circle, the more “in” one feels; and the smaller the circle, the stronger the tie.

And no ties are stronger than the tie of blood, which is why Chinese business owners always pass the rein to their son than to a group of competent professionals.

Well, that’s just one example, one example of in as vs. out.

Anyone who’s in our group is a member of us, and therefore a friend, an ally, someone to trust and work with. Conversely, anyone who is outside is not one of our own, not one of us but one of them, therefore, a foe, an enemy, someone not to trust and work with.

Anyways, the “in-group” represents any group of people who can identify with each other in a certain way. Either they have the same racial identity or the same religious beliefs or they share the same cultural background or similar interests.

Let’s take school reunions for example. When former schoolmates congregate for the first time in, say, 30 years and reminisce about the good old days, how time flies plus, how much someone is altered, how he or she is not changed at all and things of that nature, it soon becomes clear that people who share similar views and interests have formed smaller groups – some of those people even have remained “tight” throughout these years.

So and so and a few others say they’ve remained close and unseparated because they play basketball together, up to this day.

Several others like to sit next to each other because, it turns out, they all have moved to America and converted to Christianity.

Six others always appear to enjoy small talk amongst themselves because, as a matter of fact, all of them have sons or daughters at similar ages.

Another six apparently are close because they meet for karaoke sessions regularly.

So on and so forth.

Whatever the case, if you (are old enough to have 30th-aniversary reunions and) observe closely, you’ll notice that a member of an in-group tends to speak for rather than against another member of their group.

That’s easily understandable. In speaking for another member of one’s in-group, he or she feels like they’re speaking for or defending their own selves.

All right, no more ado, let’s read a few media examples of in-group, as vs. out-group:

1. Babies begin to process language in the womb, so it’s no surprise that they prefer the familiar voice – and language – of their mother over that of a stranger’s. But babies being babies aren’t born haters: They may feel more positive about familiar voices, but that doesn’t mean they harbor negativity toward strangers straight from the womb. That problematic, very human tendency, researchers reported recently in Developmental Science, is a learned behavior.

And it’s learned pretty early in life.

In their study, the scientists from the University of British Columbia and Israel’s Bar Ilan University set out to determine how early in life babies learn to feel positively toward people who speak their language — their “in-group” — and more importantly, when they learn to feel negatively toward people in their “out-group.” They conducted six experiments on 456 infants aged eight to 16 months in order to compile their data.

As the researchers expected, their analysis showed that one-year-olds expect kindness from people who speak their native language, suggesting that these infants associate familiarity with positive expectations. But they didn’t have negative expectations for the out-group. That is to say, they didn’t assume the worst from strangers; rather, they were totally neutral, said Anthea Pun, Ph.D., a University of British Columbia psychologist who co-authored the study, in an interview with Inverse.

“We find in the current study that positivity for the familiar group does not automatically precipitate negativity towards an unfamiliar group,” said Pun. But she revealed that the negativity soon follows.

“The emergence of negative attitudes towards dissimilar groups has been found as early as age three.”

While it’s clear that kids aren’t born with out-group biases, Pun says it’s not as obvious how environmental factors lead to their emergence later on. But studies have shown that five-year-olds “prefer stories that highlight positive things about their own group and negative things about out-groups,” she says. So, kids must learn to associate negativity with strangers somewhere between the ages of one and five.

- Scientists Figured Out When Human Babies Learn to Be Haters, Inverse.com, July 19, 2017.

2. Last Monday, Kylia Carter, the mother of former Duke basketball star Wendell Carter, gave a passionate speech arguing that today’s college basketball system is equivalent to slavery. Carter was reacting to the April 25 release of the Commission on College Basketball’s long-awaited report on corruption in the NCAA. Created after bribery scandals involving highly prized basketball recruits, the commission offered a host of recommendations, including imposing harsh penalties on athletic programs that knowingly violate NCAA rules.

Conspicuously absent, however, was any suggestion that college athletes should be paid a salary. As former secretary of state and commission chair Condoleezza Rice explained, “Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model — not to move toward one that brings aspects of professionalism into the game.”

That infuriated more people than Kylia Carter. “Pay for play,” as it’s called, is championed by an increasingly vocal group of journalists, broadcasters, economists, former players and their families. They argue that because the NCAA brings in billions of dollars in annual revenue from college athletics, college athletes should receive a share.

The NCAA has refused, claiming that “pay for play” will lead college sports fans to stay home and tune out. NCAA President Mark Emmert argues that “one of the biggest reasons fans like college sports is that they believe the athletes are really students who play for a love of the sport. … To convert college sports into professional sports would [lead to a product that is not] successful either for fan support or for the fan experience.”

Most Americans are skeptical about paying college athletes. But public opinion on this divides sharply by race. Most whites oppose “pay for play”; most African Americans support it.

Why is opinion on this issue so polarized by race? Because a disproportionately large percentage of college basketball and football players are African American. As with welfare, health care and criminal justice reform, that means that, for most Americans, debates over NCAA compensation are implicitly debates about race.

A number of recent commentators have tried to make this explicit, with arguments such as, “The NCAA isn’t just perpetuating a financial injustice. It’s also committing a racial one.”

Studies of intergroup relations show that people have “deep-seated psychological predispositions that partition the world into in-groups and out-groups — into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ” Decades of research on the influence of these group attachments suggests that even the most “minimal” group identities can lead people to exhibit favoritism toward in-group members and bias toward out-group members. In earlier research, we showed that the “racialization” of “pay for play” leads racially resentful whites to oppose changes to the NCAA’s current policy. But that’s only half the story.

- Whites oppose – and blacks support – paying NCAA athletes, especially when they’re thinking about race, WashingtonPost.com, May 14, 2018.

3. Over a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, commentators are still trying to understand the election and the explosion of intolerance following it. One common view is that Trump’s victory was a consequence of pervasive racism in American society.

Studies make clear, however, that racism has been decreasing over time, among Republicans and Democrats. (Views of immigration have also grown more favorable.) Moreover, since racism is deep-seated and longstanding, reference to it alone makes it difficult to understand the election of Barack Obama and Trump, the differences between Trump and the two previous Republican nominees on race and immigration, and the dramatic breakdown of social norms and civility following the elections. (Social scientists call this the “constant can’t explain a variable” problem.)
This does not mean racism is irrelevant; it matters, but social science suggests it does in more complicated ways than much commentary suggests.

Perhaps because straightforward bigotry has declined precipitously while more subtle, complex resentments remain, understanding how intolerance shapes politics requires examining not just beliefs, but also the relationship between beliefs and the environments people find themselves in. This distinction has important implications for how we interpret and address contemporary social and political problems.

Rather than being directly translated into behavior, psychologists tell us beliefs can remain latent until “triggered”. In a fascinating study, Karen Stenner shows in The Authoritarian Dynamic that while some individuals have “predispositions” towards intolerance, these predispositions require an external stimulus to be transformed into actions. Or, as another scholar puts it: “It’s as though some people have a button on their foreheads, and when the button is pushed, they suddenly become intensely focused on defending their in-group … But when they perceive no such threat, their behavior is not unusually intolerant. So the key is to understand what pushes that button.”

What pushes that button, Stenner and others find, is group-based threats. In experiments researchers easily shift individuals from indifference, even modest tolerance, to aggressive defenses of their own group by exposing them to such threats. Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson, for example, found that simply making white Americans aware that they would soon be a minority increased their propensity to favor their own group and become wary of those outside it. (Similar effects were found among Canadians. Indeed, although this tendency is most dangerous among whites since they are the most powerful group in western societies, researchers have consistently found such propensities in all groups.)

Building on such research, Diana Mutz recently argued that Trump’s stress on themes like growing immigration, the power of minorities and the rise of China highlighted status threats and fears particularly among whites without a college education, prompting a “defensive reaction” that was the most important factor in his election. This “defensive reaction” also explains why Trump’s post-election racist, xenophobic and sexist statements and reversal of traditional Republican positions on trade and other issues have helped him – they keep threats to whites front and center, provoking anger, fear and a strong desire to protect their own group.

Understanding why Trump found it easy to trigger these reactions requires examining broader changes in American society. In an excellent new book, Uncivil Agreement, Lilliana Mason analyzes perhaps the most important of these: a decades-long process of “social sorting”. Mason notes that although racial and religious animosity has been present throughout American history, only recently has it lined up neatly along partisan lines. In the past, the Republican and Democratic parties attracted supporters with different racial, religious, ideological and regional identities, but gradually Republicans became the party of white, evangelical, conservative and rural voters, while the Democrats became associated with non-whites, non-evangelical, liberal and metropolitan voters.

This lining up of identities dramatically changes electoral stakes: previously if your party lost, other parts of your identity were not threatened, but today losing is also a blow to your racial, religious, regional and ideological identity. (Mason cites a study showing that in the week following Obama’s 2012 election, Republicans felt sadder than American parents after the Newtown school shooting or Bostonians after the Boston Marathon bombing.) This social sorting has led partisans of both parties to engage in negative stereotyping and even demonization. (One study found less support for “out-group” marriage among partisan Republicans and Democrats than for interracial marriage among Americans overall.)

Once the other party becomes an enemy rather than an opponent, winning becomes more important than the common good and compromise becomes an anathema. Such situations also promote emotional rather than rational evaluations of policies and evidence. Making matters worse, social scientists consistently find that the most committed partisans, those who are the angriest and have the most negative feelings towards out-groups, are the most politically engaged.

- Why identity politics benefits the right more than the left, TheGuardian.com, July 14, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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