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Expectations of an Ingroup: Interactions Within Ingroups and How They Punish Deviant Members

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Expectations of an Ingroup: interactions within ingroups and how they punish deviant members


Ingroup and outgroups in society view punishment of members differently, ingroups especially. The variables in this study were the group in which the offender belonged to and the writing task. In the study there were 6 male and 27 female psychology students they participated to aid in writing their research paper. Participants read a fictional scenario and were then asked to determine a fine and answer four questions that judged fairness and justice. The hypothesis was that the ingroup would judge deviant ingroup members higher on a retributive justice scale and give them a higher fine. The results of this study showed that when it came to justice the ingroup rated deviant ingroup members lower then the outgroup but created a higher fine.

Expectations of an Ingroup: interactions within ingroups and how they punish deviant members

In society people are divided into two groups the ingroup and the outgroup both Social Identity Theory and the Black Sheep Effect deal with the idea of these two types of groups. Social Identity Theory is the expectation the ingroup offenders would be treated less harsh than outgroup offenders (Gollwitzer & Keller, 2010). While the Black Sheep Effect states that people see unlikable ingroup members more adversely than unlikeable outgroup members (van Prooijen & Lam, 2007). The theory that these two support is that ingroup members judge deviant ingroup members more harshly than they would outgroup members.

Gollwitzer and Keller (2010) hypothesized that a repeat ingroup offender would be given a more harsh punishment than a first time ingroup offender or an outgroup offender and that a repeat ingroup offender would create more social concerns and anger or outrage leading to a harsher punishment. This study was done through the use of a booklet gave a scenario in which norms were violated and items which measured the participants reactions to the offense committed. Upon completing the study it was discovered that if it was an ingroup offender’s first time they were punished considerably lower than a repeat offender. However in the event of an outgroup offender the criminal history had no effect. The reason behind why repeat ingroup offenders were punished harsher was that they created more societal concerns, which means that they create an increase of anger and moral outrage.

Van Prooijen and Lam (2007) claimed that when the ingroup had higher status they would seek out more punitive retributive justice against ingroup offenders rather than an outgroup offender. They also claimed that difference in punitiveness between the two groups would decrease when the ingroup had lower status because they would be more likely to punish outgroup offenders. This study was done through a questionnaire. It was proved that when the status of the ingroup was high participants were more punitively towards ingroup offenders than outgroup offenders, yet when the status of the ingroup was lower participants found no difference between ingroup and outgroup offenders.

Marques, Yzerbyt and Leyens (1988) hypothesized that judgments made about ingroup members would be stronger wheatear they be positive or negative than judgments about similar outgroup members. They did this through three experiments. One to test the Black Sheep Effect, another to validate the hypothesis in which the Black Sheep Effect only comes into effect when issues that have normative relevance specific to the group and lastly to attenuate a ‘pure’ perceptual-cognitive explanation of judgmental extremity for ingroups. All three test were done by the use of a questionnaire, and proved a strong ingroup favoritism in the form of an outgroup bias, this suggest that the bias was created to create a positive image of the ingroup.

From these three studies a pattern occurs, participants always had a stronger reaction to ingroup offenders rather than outgroup offenders. Not only was there a stronger reaction but ingroup offenders were also charged more harshly especially if they were repeat offenders (Gollwitzer & Keller, 2010) or the ingroup was of higher status (Van Prooijen & Lam, 2007).

In this study there were two conditions the experimental and the controlled. The experimental condition was the group expected to have the Black Sheep Effect, while the controlled condition was the group used for comparison. The manipulated variable in this study was the ingroup of the perpetrator and the writing tasks. These attribute to the hypothesis of deviant members of an ingroup being rated higher on a retributive justice scale and paying a higher fine than deviant member of an outgroup. From this hypothesis a prediction can be made that the experimental condition will rate the perpetrator higher on the retributive justice scale and a higher fine.

Participants were 27 females and six males with an average age of 20 years old. All participants were Douglas College students enrolled in Psychology 1200: Introduction to Psychology II. Participants were told the purpose of the experiment was to learn about and write results for an experimental research method paper for Psychology 1200: An Introduction to Psychology II.

Upon entering a classroom 33 students of Douglas College the average age being 20 were given consent forms. Those who do sign the consent form acknowledge their willingness to participate. Participants were then asked to take a piece of paper from a bowl that was labeled either “Group 1” or “Group 2,” upon which the participants organized themselves into the two groups. Once settled a coin was tossed to randomly assign the conditions for each group. Participants were each given a response booklet as result of the coin toss and upon completion of the questions about fictional scenarios the booklets were collected. The experiment started by giving the participants age and gender and then completing a writing task. Group 1’s writing tasks was to write a short paragraph about what it means to be a Douglas College student, Group 2’s writing task was about what the participant ate the day before. Afterwards the participant read a fictional scenario in which a 20 year old student named M was arrested for vandalizing the side of Douglas College, it goes on to say to eyewitnesses saw M one from his car, another from across the street. The participant is then asked how much of a fine M should pay and to rate four questions on a scale of one to seven. The questions rated 1 (not at all) and 7 (very much) as to how fair and just it would be to punish M, how content the participant would be if M was punished and how unjust it would be if M was acquitted. The questions were rated with the lowest possible score being four and the highest being 28, the higher the participant scored the more comfortable with punishment the participant was. The manipulated variable for this experiment was ingroup of perpetrator, in Group 1’s scenario the perpetrator was a fellow Douglas College student, while in Group 2 the perpetrator was a student from Kwantlen University. The dependent variable in the experiment was the retributive justice score, the rating the participant gave and the amount of the fine. The dependent variables were measured by mean and standard deviation between the controlled and experimental groups.

The hypothesizes of this paper state that if the perpetrator was part of the ingroup he would be rated higher on a retributive justice scale than one who was part of the outgroup and that if the perpetrator was part of the ingroup he would be expected to pay a higher fine than if he was a member of the outgroup. The statistics to determine these results were the mean and standard deviation of the total retributive justice score and the dollar amount M should pay within the controlled and experimental condition. The mean for the total retributive justice score was higher (M=22.33) for the controlled group than the experimental group (M=21.52), although their standard deviation was quiet similar, the controlled group once again was higher (SD=3.59) than the experimental group (SD=3.97). The mean for the dollar amount M should pay the controlled group scored lower (M=398.44) than the experimental group (M=500.88). The standard deviation for the controlled group was again lower (SD=279.35) than the experimental group (SD=440.54). When it came to the first hypothesis that the ingroup group would judge the perpetrator higher on the retributive justice score the results proved that to be incorrect. The second hypothesis in which the ingroup would expect a higher fine proved correct.

The first hypothesis that stated the ingroup would rate the deviant member higher on a retributive justice scale was found incorrect, however the second hypothesis that stated the ingroup would charge the deviant member with a higher fine was correct. In this study the controlled group or outgroup was found to have a higher retributive justice score than the experimental group or ingroup. With the price of the fine the ingroup charged considerable more than the outgroup.

Previous research shows that the ingroup has the strongest reaction to ingroup offenders, yet in this case the retributive score was lower with the ingroup but the fine was higher with the ingroup. The ingroup charged the ingroup offender lower on the retributive justice scale because of ingroup favoritism and charged a higher fine so as to create a positive image of the ingroup (Marques et al., 1988). By charging the higher fine used to clean the building it balances out the low retributive justice score. In another study the status of ingroup effected the results, the higher the ingroup the harsher the punishment (Van Prooijen & Lam, 2007). In the present study the status of the ingroup and outgroup is never directly stated. The writing task from the ingroup was about what is important about being a Douglas College student, which could imply status. This implied status however does not effect the results because the ingroup still scored lower then the outgroup on the retributive justice scale. Another study claimed that past criminal history could affect the degree a person is charged. It was proven that a repeat ingroup offender would be charged higher than a first time ingroup offender or outgroup offender of either past history. In the present study no criminal history is given which could attribute to the lower retributive just scale for the ingroup offender than the outgroup offender.

The findings of the present study are important in supporting both the Black Sheep Effect and Social Identity Theory. The ingroup members giving the deviant ingroup member a lower score on the retributive justice scale than the outgroup supports the Social Identity Theory in which ingroup offenders are treated less harsh than outgroup offenders. The results of this study also support the Black Sheep Effect, the ingroup members charge the ingroup offender a much higher fine than the outgroup offender.


Gollwitzer, M., & Keller, L. (2010). What you did only matters if you are one of us: Offenders’ group membership moderates the effect of criminal history on punishment severity. Social Psychology, 41(1), 30-26. doi: 10.1027/1864- 9335/a000004

Marques, J.M., Yzerbyt, V.Y., & Leyens, J. (1988). The Black Sheep Effect: Extremity of judgments towards ingroup members as a function of group identification. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18(1), 1-16. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2420180102

van Prooijen, J., & Lam, J. (2007). Retributive justice and social categorizations: The perceived fairness of punishment depends on intergroup status. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(6), 1244-1255. doi: 10.1002/ejsp…...

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