Goldenberg, A., Saguy, T., & Halperin, E. (2014). How group-based emotions are shaped by collective emotions: Evidence for emotional transfer and emotional burden. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037462
Background & Theory
Intergroup processes have an element that is imperative to social psychology research- group-based emotions. Previous research has been based on the premise of group-based emotions reflecting what the rest of the group feels (i.e., collective emotions). This research studies the less inquired phenomenon within group-based emotions: emotional nonconformity. This happens when one experiences emotion in the name of their group, which is inconsistent with what the collective feels.
The authors attempted to answer the following question:
What is the emotional process of individuals who experience group-based emotions in the name of a collective that does not share their emotions?
97 Jewish Israeli participants were asked to fill out a short questionnaire post reading a story that was supposed to elicit guilt in them. The story was about an Arab girl born in Haifa (a big city in Israel), who got deported due to a new immigration law, despite her need for immediate surgery. The girl was the daughter of an Israeli–Arab father and a Palestinian mother from Gaza.
The final paragraph of the story described a survey where the participants’ guilt was assessed through two condition groups, where they were given different information about their communities’ reactions. In the high-collective guilt condition, participants were told that 81% of Jewish– Israeli readers felt a certain degree of guilt after reading the story. Vice- versa, in the low-collective guilt condition, they were told that 81% of readers did not feel any guilt after reading the story.
As the authors expected, participants in the low guilt condition expressed higher group-based guilt than those in the high group-based guilt condition. This indicated that the perception of collective emotion affects group-based emotion in the opposite direction of conformity. They concluded that it could be either as compensation for the lack of collective emotion or as an alleviation of the emotional response when the appropriate collective emotion was expressed.
How This Translates for the Workplace
- Encourage emotional non-conformity: A workplace is also a group that has an organizational or company identity. Employees here can experience group-based emotions, and hence group-based nonconformity too. 21st-century workplaces aren’t about conformity, but new ideas. If employees always agreed with the organizations’ decisions without challenging them, they would not be providing anything new to the growth of the company. A workplace that constantly innovates is one where employees can freely express their disagreement and emotional nonconformity with the group. Therefore, work on building a safe environment for a multiplicity of ideas and disagreements. Conflict resolution is also an important skill to inculcate for this exercise to be successful, because disagreement between ideas may cause tensions if team members are not trained in dialogue, inclusion and agreeing to disagree. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to get in touch!
- Make Difficult Group Discussions a routine: Just how the authors gave participants a guilt eliciting story to reflect on, the management can also give employees some hypothetical situations to ponder over that make them introspect on their morals. They can occasionally hold group discussion sessions for employees to understand issues of diversity, prejudice, and justice while thinking about their own identities critically. As a modern workplace that is committed to the values of inclusion, such an activity can be a good exercise to stimulate team bonding while nudging employees to act more responsibly and be courageous about their pro-social stance.