The German NGO “Streitgut” recently posted a youtube video with a reference to an article on how activating different identities influences willingness to help, that I then had to check out because we are working so much with belonging and ingroup/outgroup issues right now. My summary of that article below:
Identity and emergency intervention: How social group membership and inclusiveness of group boundaries shape helping behaviour (Levine et al., 2005)
In this article, two experiments are presented. In both, football fans are exposed to (simulated) accidents in a situation where the test person thinks they are in between tests and unobserved, and their willingness to help is investigated depending on whether the person in the accident is wearing a tricot of the test person’s team, a rival team, or just generic sports clothes. There are two different conditions where different identities are triggered: That as a fan of the specific team, or as a fan of the sport in general.
The results are not really surprising: In the first case, test persons are much more willing to help supporters of their own team than others. But in the second, they are more willing to help anyone who is also “marked” as a football fan, but not the people who are “just doing sports” rather than football specifically. So activating a more inclusive group identity increased people’s willingness to help, but also the more inclusive identity still had boundaries where the willingness to help decreased.
I find that quite interesting in the context of the work I do. At LTH, students have very strong identities depending on which program they are in, and that they are at LTH, and that is reinforced in many ways. And being (told to be) proud to be a student in a specific program, or at LTH, is not a bad thing in itself. But what would happen if, instead, the identity was more about being students at Lund University, or being “a student”, or being a citizen, …? Obviously, people have many different identities in different contexts, but thinking about which one we activate at any given time is clearly important and fascinating to think about!
Levine, M., Prosser, A., Evans, D., & Reicher, S. (2005). Identity and emergency intervention: How social group membership and inclusiveness of group boundaries shape helping behavior. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 31(4), 443-453.