In social psychology there’s a fascinating concept known as ‘In groups vs. Out groups’, theorised by Henri Tajfel, in his ‘Social Identity Theory’. Tajfel speculates that as human beings we understand our social environment through categorising other people, and adopting the identity of the group we associate with. The outcome of this process, of course, leads to comparison. As our sense of self relates directly to our ‘in-group’, we seek to enhance the status of the group we belong to. In turn however, our sense of self can also be enhanced by discriminating against groups we don’t belong to – the out groups.
I thought a lot about this concept after watching a Q&A program, where someone of Islam faith addressed Senator Pauline Hanson. He first explained how his son had approached him, asking what ‘Islamophobia meant’. He then explained this concept to his son by showing him some of Hanson’s video’s, where I imagine she talked openly about her views to ban muslim refugee’s or immigrants (the out group) from entering Australia (her in group). The man went on to say to Senator Hanson, “What is the basis of your Islamic phobic feelings, hate, fear or ignorance?”
Hanson’s response came out in a flurry, as she attempted to defend her controversial believes, by listing acts of terrorism committed by radical Muslims and the apparent fear that is arising in Australia as a result. She asked the man, “Why have we just recently had another five men go and fight for ISIL?”
The man responded by indirectly suggesting Hanson’s ignorance stems from this ‘in-group/out-group’ phenomena. And it then got me thinking – I read another article recently, which talked about how in a lot of situations, we are prone to make snap judgements without taking in all the information. This is often because we can’t immediately access the information, or we can’t access it at all. Our world would probably be overwhelming if we could. In sum, we make judgements that lack all the pieces of the puzzle. And I feel as though this is what the man that addressed Senator Hanson profoundly demonstrated. When Hanson makes a controversial statement that refers to banning Muslims from entering Australia, how deeply has she discerned her thought process on the individual level. Does she consider the affect of her words on this mans son? And does she realise she’s enhancing her in-group status not via group promotion, but rather group discrimination – that lacks all the information.
Check out the full clip down below!
Food for thought – how can we break down barriers?
Love Kat x