In-group bias is ingrained in humans

News: Adults and children–even children as young as three–“are really quick to sort themselves into … social groups and to form a preference for their in-group.” This tendency has been found in people–again, even children–across “gender, race or ethnicity, language, nationality, and religion.”

Decades of research indicate that in-group favoritism occurs even when the group is based on very superficial criteria; the group does not have to be deeply meaningful like political parties or religious affiliation. “People more positively evaluate their in-group members, allocate more resources to them, and hold stronger … favoritism towards them.”

We may shrug and say “of course, this is obvious.” But, that only shows how deeply ingrained this bias is among humans.

So, what does this mean for us?

Research shows that it takes very little to create strong group attachments; it happens even when groups are formed arbitrarily and at random. This in-group preference–that leads to “prejudice, bias, and exclusion”–happens even when competition and scarce resources are not issues.

The world today (the United States especially) is filled with tribalism; social media (and other things) help to create many superficial and random groups. Are there ways that this in-grained human bias can be overcome? Especially with children?

Go to the source:

Yang, X., & Dunham, Y. (2019). Minimal but meaningful: Probing the limits of randomly assigned social identities. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 185, 19-34. [PDF] [Cited by]

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