The dynamic emergence of minimal groups

Christopher Michael Jackson, Joshua Conrad Jackson, David Bilkey, Jonathan Jong, Jamin Halberstadt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    The minimal group paradigm has consistently shown that people will discriminate to favor their own group over an out-group, even when both groups are created arbitrarily by an experimenter. But will people actually form groups that are so arbitrary? And could something as trivial as a randomly assigned name tag color serve as a fault line during group formation? In this study, we use in vivo behavioral tracking (IBT) to precisely and unobtrusively track samples of participants as they assort repeatedly into groups. We find that participants do form groups on the basis of their randomly assigned name tag colors, but that name tag homophily emerges over time, becoming stronger in subsequent groups. Our results suggest that people are unconsciously or consciously biased toward group similarity, even when similarities are essentially meaningless. Our study has implications for theories of intergroup relations and social identity. It also demonstrates the utility of applying real-time tracking to study group formation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)921-929
    Number of pages9
    JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
    Issue number7
    Early online date29 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


    • group formation
    • in vivo behavioral tracking
    • minimal group
    • similarity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Cultural Studies
    • Communication
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Sociology and Political Science


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