The Situationist

The Situation of Group Membership

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 21, 2007

First Meeting 2Whenever one joins a group, he or she often feels reluctant to immediately express strong views or otherwise “rock the boat.” A new study in the Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin examines such behavior and explores why groups tend to resist the ideas of newcomers while applauding the very same ideas offered by longtime members. Below we provide a press release accompanying the study.

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Virtually everyone who joins a new group is sensitive to the fact that, as a newcomer, he or she must tread carefully for a while, keeping a low profile until becoming sufficiently integrated into the group. When they do offer their ideas, criticisms, and suggestions, existing group members typically resist their contributions. Why does that happen and what can be done to overcome that resistance” Research published in the July issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), from SAGE, explores those questions.

The studies, authored in PSPB by Matthew J. Hornsey, Tim Grice, Jolanda Jetten, Neil Paulsen, and Victor Callan (all at University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia), examined how groups responded to identical criticisms of the group presented by both newcomers and old-timers. In every instance, the newcomers’ statements aroused less agreement and more negativity than the same comments delivered by long-term members. As a result, old-timers were more influential in persuading others than the newcomers were.

The authors conclude that the resistance to newcomers occurred because they were perceived as being less attached to their group member identity than long-term members, leading others to question whether they had the group’s best interests at heart. “Newcomers should have greater influence to the extent that they show commitmeBoard Meetingnt to their identity as a group member,” write the authors. “Newcomers who seemed to relinquish their attachment to a community to which they formerly belonged were more influential in their new group.”

Newcomers face an uphill battle to have their criticisms and recommendations for change accepted and this research can help them bring about positive change in the groups they join.

The article, “Group Directed Criticism and Recommendations for Change: Why Newcomers Arouse More Resistance than Old-Timers,” published by SAGE in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, an official publication of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, is available at no charge for a limited time at this link.

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For a couple of other Situationist works relating to group membership, see “Race Attributions and Georgetown University Basketball” and “The Young and the Lucky.”

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2 Responses to “The Situation of Group Membership”

  1. […] here. For a sample of previous Situationist posts discussing group decision-making, see “The Situation of Group Membership,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part IV and Part V,” and […]

  2. […] Situationist reports on a newly published study that has some recommendations for newcomers seeking to gain acceptance of ideas: When they criticized their current group, newcomers who distanced themselves from their previous […]

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