One of the main characteristics of human beings is that we have a clear tendency to live in groups, and not individually. In fact, for millions of years, our evolutionary lineage has been made up of hominids who have lived in tribes, groups in which several families live together.

However, as with virtually any psychological propensity, this lifestyle not only provides benefits; it also involves certain risks and drawbacks. In this article we will see what are the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a social group , with explanations.

Advantages of belonging to a group

In this section we will see what are the benefits of having one or more social groups that accept us and consider us a member of the community.

1. Assume a protection factor

The first advantage is obvious and has to do with a very material fact: being part of a group makes it more difficult for many of us to be exposed to dangerous situations that can end up with us.

For example, it means that if someone attacks us others will probably come to our defense, or that if we are left without a basic livelihood others will give us shelter.

2. Provides us with role models

In addition, another advantage of being part of a group is that we are constantly exposed to examples to follow, people who have similar characteristics and objectives to ours and who are stimulating when it comes to directing our actions towards a goal .

In this way, being surrounded by such people will make it more likely that we will feel motivated to perfect certain qualities that if we work will provide us with better livelihoods and will surely benefit the rest of the group members.

3. Strengthen our self-esteem

The feeling of belonging is one of the aspects that positively reinforces people’s self-esteem.

On the one hand, seeing how other people consider us a part of the group implies that they recognize our importance, given that the same efforts that these people devote to looking after the community are, indirectly, efforts from which one benefits oneself.

On the other hand, being part of a group implies that other people identify with us, that they are predisposed to make sacrifices in order to defend ourselves against attacks from elements outside the group, which emulates the functioning of the affective ties that arise in families and love relationships in general.

4. Combat loneliness

Loneliness is one of the life situations most related to harmful life habits and physical or psychological illness.

Therefore, the simple fact of having a community is beneficial, because it encourages us to go out and relate , which keeps us active and gives us reasons not to abandon ourselves.

5. Provides us with information

Information is one more resource, and belonging to a group, with the possibility of contacting many people, is an important social capital.

This, for example, means that we don’t need to memorize everything we need to live , since this information is distributed among the individuals we deal with (this is what is known as transactional memory).

Disadvantages of being part of a group

Although it is considered that in the value between benefits and disadvantages the former have more weight than the latter (among other things because we depend on social relations to survive), it is true that belonging to a group also has its negative elements . Let’s see what they are.

1. Contagiousness

Groups are a means of spreading epidemics. However, in modern societies, belonging to a group in which appropriate prevention measures are taken minimizes this risk, assuming that one may not be part of a group and yet relate to others.

2. Effect of social pressure

Another disadvantage of belonging to a group is that the simple fact of being part of one exposes us more to group pressure , given that the rest of its members share certain characteristics with us and through this identification we can legitimize initiatives to create uniformity among individuals.

For example, using as an excuse that all members of the group share a language, an attempt can be made to associate clothing and symbols that express that identity, making those who do not adopt this aesthetic stand out

3. Criminalization of dissent

It is part of the group dynamics to use exemplary punishment against those who were previously part of the group and later adopted behaviours that are considered to be contrary to group identity.

4. Appearance of default leaderships

Another disadvantage of belonging to the groups is that if we do not make an effort to avoid it by using democratic mechanisms, a leader appears who has more power than the rest in decision making and role distribution, regardless of his or her degree of ability in the task to be addressed collectively.

5. Outward facing

The feeling of belonging has various degrees of intensity, and in the most extreme it can legitimize hostility towards those who are not part of the group , just by being outside its limits.

But even when the feeling of belonging is not very strong, the simple fact of being part of one usually predisposes us to not be so supportive of those outside it.

Bibliographic references:

  • Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, pp. 31 – 35.
  • Sewell, W. H. (1989). Some reflections on the golden age of interdisciplinary social psychology. Annual Review of Sociology. 15.