Group dynamics regulate external and internal relationships in a given social group. Since social groups share common values such as beliefs, roles, norms, morality and needs, both external and internal influences make these groups to respond collectively to imminent challenges that affects them.
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External influences that threaten continuity and existence of a given social group results into internal responses that seek to strengthen ingroup bonds. Wohl, Branscombe and Reysen argue that, “…threat imposed from outside the group tends to diminish intragroup variability on judgmental dimensions strongly associated with or defining of the ingroup … when threat is perceived, ingroup members show signs of increased ingroup solidarity and cohesion” (899).
This observation implies that, when groups experience challenges that threaten their existence, they respond in a manner that strengthens their unity. Group dynamics that define their identity such as beliefs, norms and morality are very critical in enhancing unity amidst external threats that tend to weaken ingroup relationship. Therefore, perceived threats of extinction do elicit ingroup responses that seek to strengthen unity within a group.
When a social group perceives impending threats from other social groups that jeopardize its existence, it responds in a manner to oppose the threats. Since the group’s dynamics define and determine the nature of the group, strengthening the ingroup values and beliefs effectively fortify the group against external threats.
Wohl, Branscombe and Reysen assert that, “…threats that undermine the structural position of the group in terms of power, status, or distinctiveness tend to enhance ingroup homogeneity as a means of maintaining a positive social identity and preparing the ingroup for collective defence” (899). Therefore, external influences that tend to change group dynamics or cause extinction elicit ingroup responses aimed at counteracting perceived negative influences.
Perceived threats of extinction elicit collective angst as an ingroup response that strengthens a group. In response to the impending threats that seems to threaten the existence of social groups, individuals develop anxiety due to uncertainty of survival of their respective groups. Emotions of anxiety in individuals affect their behaviours, which in turn influence group behaviours.
“As with personal anxiety, group members who experience collective angst are likely to ready themselves to deal with the anticipated negative events, that is, invest time and effort in behaviours that strengthen the ingroup and shield it from an unwanted future” (Wohl, Branscombe & Reysen 900). Extinction threats elicit collective anxiety as a counteracting response that seeks to strengthen ingroup dynamics such as beliefs and norms that govern and protect intragroup relationships against external influences.
The study on Jewish experiences during the Holocaust illustrates that threats of extinction caused them to develop ingroup behaviours that strengthen their unity due to the collective angst that they still posses even to date. According to Wohl, Branscombe and Reysen, “…a reminder of historical extinction threat elevates collective angst and, as a result, ingroup strengthening behaviours are advocated … increased group members’ desire to act in ways that strengthen the ingroup to the extent that collective angst was experienced” (906).
The findings have given another perspective of groups’ dynamics by incorporating collective angst as one of the parameters that determines ingroup responses towards threatening circumstances. The strength of the research is that it has clearly demonstrated that a group reacts to the external influences that seem to threaten its existence by strengthening its intragroup values and beliefs. The weakness of the research lies in the fact that there was no randomization of participants and only minority groups formed the research populations.
Wohl, Michael, Branscombe, Nyla, and Reysen, Stephen. “Perceiving Your Group’s
Future to be in Jeopardy: Extinction Threat Induces Collective Angst and the Desire to Strengthen the Ingroup.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36.7 (2010): 898 –910.