The dynamic emergence of minimal groups

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

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
Volume22
Issue number7
Early online date29 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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Keywords

  • 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

Cite this

Jackson, C. M., Jackson, J. C., Bilkey, D., Jong, J., & Halberstadt, J. (2019). The dynamic emergence of minimal groups. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 22(7), 921-929. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430218802636