Schism in Groups: A Social Psychological Account

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Abstract

Far from being monoliths, groups tend to be internally subdivided into competing factions that, in some cases, may leave the parent group thereby causing a schism. Although schisms are complex phenomena, research has revealed the existence of specific social psychological patterns that different schisms seem to have in common. A schism is normally triggered by the perception that a change (i.e., either the adoption of a new norm or the revision of an old norm) endorsed by the group majority denies the group identity and constitutes a rupture with its historically sedimented essence. Members of the faction opposing the change may or may not decide to leave the group, depending on their perceived ‘voice’ within the group. Feeling marginalised and discriminated against, rather than valued and respected within, the group will increase chances of joining a schism.

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