Intergroup anxiety was realised after a study to try and understand why individuals faced anxiety and ambiguous feelings of discomfort when they indulge in intergroup interaction. Cookie and Walter Stephan in 1985 came up with the intergroup anxiety concept. This is mostly because of the expectation of an aversive reaction from members of another group. Members of a given group are unsure of the kind reception they will get from the next group.
Scientists have studied the dynamics that come in to play in the case of Intergroup anxiety. Several factors have been realised to be the major causes of Intergroup anxiety:
- Individual members are afraid of how they will be perceived by members of the other group. For example they may be seen as being prejudiced or biased towards certain ideologies.
- Individual members of a group feeling that they may not be able to project or demonstrate behaviour viewed by another group as the expected or social norm. this they fear may be the cause for them to be mocked
- Fear for being ostracized by the members of their own group for associating with members of another group.
- Portraying negative behaviour as a result of presumed threat from members of another group
All these factors greatly contribute to Intergroup anxiety. Other personal factors for every individual member of a given group also affect Intergroup anxiety. For example, members who have faced certain bad experiences in the past with members of a certain group are more likely to exhibit Intergroup anxiety than those who have not. Individual members who have had bad experiences with individual members tend to generalise their personal experiences and anticipate the same in an intergroup scenario.
Groups also have the tendency to have ethnocentrism. Members of a given grou may uphold their own ideologies and beliefs and look down on those of others. They will view other groups as being inferior or not on the right track. This scenario will bear Intergroup anxiety among members.
Intergroup anxiety is dangerous because in heightened levels it can be a source of major conflict. A good example of this would be sports fanaticism and hooliganism. Every member of a group created by allegiance to a certain team values their membership very strongly. In the event that there is any form of disagreement between the two, conflict and even violence arises.
Another main cause of Intergroup anxiety is lack of constant interaction with members of other groups. If members of a given group only relate with what is familiar, they may not understand reconcile with the fact that other people have different world views. People need to realise that it is alright for other people to hold different ideologies form their own. Members of a group need to realise that other people’s opinions and beliefs are just as important as their own. This was they will not try to force people to conform to their own, instead they will appreciate and even interact and in the long run they will have less Intergroup anxiety.
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