The ingroup overexclusion effect: Identity concerns in decisions about group membership



There are circumstances in which one is reluctant to express a judgment on the basis of the available information. This is for instance the case when the decision may jeopardize the integrity of the group one is a member of. In particular, ingroup members are considered less judgeable than outgroup members. This phenomenon corresponds to the ingroup overexclusion effect (Leyens and Yzerbyt, 1992). An experimental situation was designed in order to rule out an explanation of this phenomenon in terms of confirmation of hypothesis. French- or Dutch-speaking subjects heard recordings of 40 sentences and, depending on the specific wording of the question, decided whether the speakers belonged to the group of French-speaking (i.e. Walloon) versus Dutch-speaking (i.e. Flemish) Belgians or not. The 40 sentences enabled to cross three factors with five sentences in each cell: Walloon versus Flemish speakers, French versus Dutch sentences, and short versus long sentences. As predicted, subjects made most errors when ingroup members read short outgroup sentences. Most importantly, the specific wording of the question did not lead to a reversal of the pattern of errors of group identification. Subjects also took longer to make a decision about an ingroup member reading an outgroup sentence than about an outgroup member reading an ingroup sentence. Such a pattern clearly supports a motivational explanation and undermines a confirmation of hypothesis explanation of the ingroup overexclusion effect. Older accounts of ethnic identification phenomena are addressed and it is suggested that identity concerns greatly affect impression formation processes.