Wednesday, March 19
A group shares a task. and often one member of the group is the manager or coordinator. Sometimes, these managers hoard information, applying it to their specific assignments, withholding details and benefits from others. That manager also may cherry-pick assignments, avoiding challenges and judging assess in advance. The manager is calculating about when to help an in-group and when to work with an out-group. The manager's efforts to look smart and successful often undermine the organization as a whole. Some members of the out-group will try to join the in-group, but others will drop out of the charade, no longer offering necessary support and critical ideas as they set out on their own, while seeking alternative pay-offs.
"The Evolution of In-Group Favoritism" is a fascinating study of such calculating ways that analyzes such group dynamics with game theory:
Across a variety of scenarios, people tend to be more helpful to members of their own group rather than to those of other groups1, 2, 3, 4, 5. In-group favoritism has been shown to occur based on real-world salient groupings, such as ethnicity6, religiosity7 and political affiliation4, 8, and has also been artificially manufactured in the laboratory using trivial groupings1 ....
In-group bias is common, yet the implementation of that bias is dynamic and flexible8, 25, 26. Thus culture and cultural evolution27 must play an important role in the evolution of bias. The dynamic nature of bias results from complex social network interactions which play a central role in human societies28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, with genetic as well as social components affecting network formation37, 38, 39. Such network dynamics can turn yesterday's allies into today's competitors, and drive former enemies together in the face of a common threat.
Many endeavors allow only one set of winners.
But other endeavors might prevent an array of categories with the perception of "winning." The leader may focus keenly on one aspect for the in-group, say sales, while neglecting other categories, such as long-term reputation or acclaim. Focus on the in-group can inspire members of the out-group to tackle new categories of winning neglected by the calculating leader. And they may also appeal to outside arbiters.
Dynamics of groups can shift as in transforms to out and out transforms to in. In the end, all the favoritism, unfair processes and corruption can be dangerous, simply serving to motivate members of the out-group and strengthen their resolve.
So many scientific studies offer intriguing topics for mystery novels, and this is one of those studies.
Image of Joseph from the Old Testament, being thrown into a pit by 12 brothers who resented their father's favoritism, by David Colyn in 1644, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.