Going to Extremes for One’s Group



What is the conjunction of factors that inclines an individual to go to extremes for their group? Drawing on social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; see Abrams & Hogg, 2010), uncertainty-identity theory (Hogg, 2007, 2012), and the social identity theory of leadership (Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003; Hogg, van Knippenberg, & Rast, in press) it is argued that social identity centrality, self-prototypicality and perceived probability of acceptance by the group are the key factors. I report a recent experiment (Goldman & Hogg, 2012) testing the hypothesis that when a group is central to self-definition extreme behavior is most likely among prototypically peripheral members who feel that by going to extremes on behalf of the group they are likely to be accepted by the group. We tested and fully supported this hypothesis in a study of 218 male and female members of university fraternities and sororities in Southern California, in which we manipulated perceived self-prototypicality and perceived probability of acceptance. We measured the effects of these variables on engagement in and support for engagement in a range of increasingly extreme intergroup behaviors. The implications of this research for organizational and corporate dynamics, the behavior of group leaders, and the wider psychology of zealotry and fanaticism are discussed.