henry copeland:

Belonging to a group boosts sense of control and satisfaction

The experimenters randomly assigned Americans to one of two conditions: high identification and low identification. Those in the former condition they asked a series of questions that made it very easy to disagree with negative statements about their country (e.g., “I feel no affiliation with the United States”) and agree with positive (e.g., “In general, I like living in the United States.”). Those in the latter, by contrast, were asked questions that made it very easy to agree with negative statements about their country (“There are some things I don’t like about the United States”) and disagree with positive (“I identify very strongly with the United States”). The experimenters reasoned that answering these questions would cause a temporary shift in people’s sense of national identity. And sure enough, those in the “high identification” condition reported being more proud to be an American than those in the “low identification” condition. Additionally, the more identified as American, the more control they felt over their lives. But the most important finding emerged when the experimenters asked participants to write about an experience in which they felt totally powerless. This sort of writing exercise can cause a temporary negative mood. And indeed, people in the “low identification” condition exhibited various negative emotions consistent with depression. On the other hand, those in the “high identification” condition showed no significant decrease in mood. Their feeling of national pride had bolstered their perceived personal control, which in term buffered them against dejection. Overall, then, this research suggests that belonging to a community—whether it’s your family, your workplace, your religious organization, or your country—can help you deal with life’s challenges.
- www.scientificamerican.com