In-Group in Sociology: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:00 In-Groups Defined
  • 1:40 Out-Groups Defined
  • 3:24 Biases
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

An in-group is a group that we belong to and strongly identify with. Learn about in-groups, how they differ from out-groups, the type of biases that affect group formation, and more.

In-Groups Defined

Lonnie is a college freshman at Duke University, which was her first choice for undergraduate study. Both of Lonnie's parents and her older brother attended Duke. It was there that her father first saw her mother.

Lonnie loves to watch the Duke Blue Devils play basketball and football. Lonnie and her family have attended almost every game for the past 20 years. Lonnie's new roommate Sally and her family are just as supportive of Duke's sports teams as Lonnie and her family are. Lonnie and Sally share a room with Becca, who is a big fan of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Tar Heels. Lonnie and Sally tend to team up on Becca and exclude her from activities that are sports-related, i.e. going to a sports bar to watch a game.

Lonnie and Sally are both a part of the same in-group, which is a group that a person is a part of, strongly identifies with, and is loyal to. Once we have identified ourselves as belonging to a group, we perceive ourselves and the other members of our group as being different from other groups. In other words, we tend to think of the world in terms of 'us' and 'them.'

In-groups distinguish themselves from other groups based on certain membership criteria and boundaries that the members establish. For example, the fans of Duke Blue Devils might distinguish themselves from other groups by wearing school colors to all of the games and only sitting on one side of the bleachers during games. Membership criteria might include attending all of the home and away games, keeping up with sports statistics, and a dislike for the Tar Heels.

Out-Groups Defined

If the 'us' refers to the in-group, then the 'them' refers to the out-group. The out-group is a group to which a person is not a member and is not loyal to. The out-group includes everyone who is not a part of your in-group. It follows that the out-group of one person serves as the in-group for another person. It is important to note that the identity of an in-group depends on its ability to distinguish itself from those in out-groups. This includes cases where the out-group has a similar purpose to the in-group.

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