In-group bias refers to the tendency to favor and give preferential treatment to people who belong to one’s own group while showing prejudice against outsiders.

What is in-group bias?

In-group bias – also known as in-group favoritism – refers to the tendency of people to favor and show preferential treatment to those who are part of their own group over those who are perceived to be of a different group. 

The group identification can be temporary, (like a fraternity in college), or more permanent, (like religious beliefs). This means that one can experience the psychological phenomenon in any situation where the group identity is prominent – such as in a workplace, a sports stadium, or in school.

In-group bias can manifest in various forms. For instance, a preference for one’s own nationality, religion, gender, or perhaps even a favorite sports team.

In-group bias versus affinity bias

Affinity bias is a form of unconscious bias that occurs when people preference others who are similar to them or share similar aspects. While that is closely related to in-group bias, they are not one and the same. 

In-group bias is a more general term that refers to the favoritism shown towards members of a particular group. However, affinity bias is a specific type of in-group bias based on personal connections or perceived similarities. 

Both types of bias can lead to discrimination and prejudice against perceived outsiders. 

The definition of in-group

An in-group is a group of individuals who share common characteristics or interests. 

The shared characteristics/interests often create a sense of belonging and identity, which is why in-groups are characterized by strong social ties, mutual trust, and shared values.

Examples of in-group bias

Here are some typical examples of in-group bias:

What causes in-group bias?

The causes of in-group bias can be based on various factors, including psychological, social, and cultural factors.

Learn about the factors below. 

Psychological factors

Psychologically, in-group bias may arise due to how we process information and make decisions.

For example, cognitive biases, such as the confirmation bias (seeking out and interpreting information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs), can lead to the reinforcement of in-group stereotypes and negative attitudes towards out-group members. 

Social factors

Norms, socialization, group membership, and other social factors can also contribute to in-group bias.

For example, social norms may dictate that people should show loyalty and favoritism towards members of their own group, while socialization may emphasize the importance of group identity and reinforce negative attitudes towards out-group members.

Group memberships, especially in groups with a strong sense of identity and cohesion, can create an “us versus them” mentality, leading to in-group bias. 

Cultural factors

Societal values, historical events, intergroup relations, and other cultural factors can also cause in-group bias.

For example, cultural values emphasizing individualism or collectivism can affect how in-group bias manifests in different cultures. In addition, historical events such as wars, conflicts, and colonialism can create a legacy of mistrust and animosity between groups, reinforcing in-group favoritism. 

Effects of in-group bias

In-group bias can have both positive and negative effects on individuals and society.

Here are examples of positive effects:

Here are examples of negative effects:

In-group bias in the workplace 

In-group bias can also occur in the workplace, where it can create a toxic work environment, leading to discrimination, unequal treatment, and lower morale.

Here are some examples of in-group bias in the workplace:

To avoid in-group favoritism and bias, it is essential to promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, encourage open communication and collaboration among employees, and create a culture of fairness and respect for all employees.

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