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Beware of the in-group effect

How many of your beliefs are really your own?
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How many decisions do you make at work and in your personal life because of the in-group effect? Are you even aware when it’s happening (or what it is)? Allow us to explain: the ‘in-group effect’ (also known as in-group bias or in-group favouritism) is our tendency to give preferential treatment to ‘people like us’. We often see it in action when someone is recommended to us by someone we love and trust. We automatically trust this person – they get assumed trust, because someone from our world has said that we’ll like them.

Trust is a funny old beast. Scientists have found that we’re more inclined to trust people who are like us in some way. Studies even show that facial resemblance enhances trust (yep, the more we look like someone, the more likely we are to trust them – possibly because our brains tell us we’re related!). We’re also predisposed to like people who’re similar to us, even if it’s only a perceived similarity. So, it doesn’t take much for us to trust or like a person, as long as we have something (or someone) in common.

When we’re part of the in-group, it can be wonderful and inspiring. We’re one of the cool kids, hurray! Sometimes it creates a strong sense of belonging. And it can be a powerful business tool, providing a steady stream of word-of-mouth referrals.

But the in-group effect can also be quite dangerous. Assumed trust and assumed shared views mean we're often attracting ourselves to people who’re like us, which in turn limits diversity of thought and keeps our networks pretty slim. It can also have a detrimental effect on our relationships with people who aren’t part of the same in-group. We might judge non-members unfairly. It can even lead to prejudice and discrimination.

Now, this isn’t about us telling you to remove yourself from your in-group – we’re just suggesting you make a conscious effort to be aware of its presence in your life. To analyse how it might materialise in team meetings, or in your friendship groups, or in the decisions you make on a day-to-day basis. It might influence minor things, like the clothes you wear or the car you drive. It could also play a part in bigger decisions, like the suburb you choose to live in, or the people you hire at work or spend your time with. Whatever the scenario, the in-group effect can have a very limiting impact on your life.

Next time you find yourself making a significant decision, ask yourself:

  • What am I thinking that may not be true?
  • Am I letting other people influence my thinking?
  • Are there negative or limiting thoughts coming into play that aren’t even mine, which I’ve never challenged or reflected on or re-assessed?
  • Have I thoughtlessly fallen into a ‘culture’ – a way of doing and being?

We all have thoughts and beliefs that aren’t necessarily our own and it can be beneficial to reflect on where they come from. This article about cleaning your mind a little each day offers a great starting point.

– The Coach Place Global

Image by @Soyhivan

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