Discuss the contribution of groups to the function of social structure.

Discuss the contribution of groups to the function of social structure.

 5.5.2 Sociologists use the word group to refer to different types of behavior that do not involve interaction, in-group and out-group are defined by individuals to describe where they stand in relation to others in society. Reference groups also serve to help us establish our relative standing, but they also provide guidance about the kinds of norms we should follow. Coalitions are different.  Coalitions do involve some degree of real interaction, although the interaction is often indirect and through a large social network or a result of like mindedness among people who otherwise don’t know each other.

Remember that the term “Social Group” only applies to groups in which there is direct or indirect interaction. The 4 groups described above can have interaction but it is not required.


Discuss the contribution of groups to the function of social structure.


In-groups The In Crowd. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WWsOUk9O5g The in-group feels a great deal of power as a result of its popularity.  There is a sense that this group has privileges others are denied, but at the same time the sense is that it’s ok for them to have this power. In-groups are defined by their members as being “in”, usually this is based on the perception they have of their own power. In groups mark the boundaries of behavior so that you must conform to enter.  A child might not be invited to an “in” party because they have the wrong clothes.  Parents can say this is “shallow” but the entire point of being an “in” group is exclusivity and the ability to exclude or include whomever you choose.

The Asch experiment applies to all groups and has relevance for understanding “groupthink”.  It is especially relevant to in-groups because of their closed nature.


On the macro-level in-groups look a little different, a bit more like a mass of people with the same beliefs or belief system.  This might be organized around national or religious lines, or on a smaller scale around a ritual or holiday.  On this scale an in-group can look like national pride or ethnocentrism or pride in the home team.  Individuals don’t have to know one another to be part of the “home team”, people display signs and symbols and engage in behaviors that mark show they belong to their favorite side.  They are “in”.  Just think about all the fan paraphernalia that sports teams sell, each piece a marker for belonging to the team group, the in-group; or flags, or pieces of jewelry that mark religious preference.

This is a video of the 1980 Olympic Hockey game between the United States and our arch enemy of the cold war the USSR.  The Russian team was one of the best and ours was one of the best.  As you watch the video notice the symbols of national pride on players and in the audience.  The video runs 7 minutes but the first  2 or 3 should give you the idea.



Out-groups Out groups are negatively valued.  The idea is to join the more powerful in-group, where advantage can be had and not be left out.  The in-group gets to define who is in and who is out, so the individual who is left out is marked as less desirable in the process.  The most extreme example of an out-group is an enemy.  http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/problem/outgrp.htm
Reference Groups Reference groups are groups that we use to evaluate ourselves and others.   The show us the established norms and they provide a measuring stick against which we can determine how well we are doing comparatively.  We can also use them to make judgments about how others are doing.
Coalitions Coalitions form when groups with differing interests work together toward some end that all the group see as desirable.  Those of us who watched “Survivor” are very familiar with coalitions, and were able to observe them forming and breaking up as various competitors decided to work together or not. 
Key Terms  
Define In-groups
  Reference groups
Slides none
Evaluation  Quiz 5.5.2
Additional resources none
  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: