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We Were, We Are, Will We Be? The Social Psychology of Collective Angst



Not all social groups survive the passage of time. Groups once in existence are now but memories of the past. If history is any indication, other social groups are likely to experience a similar fate and join the list of groups that once were. The concern that one’s group might one day join such a list is the focus of this paper. Specifically, we examine the social psychology of collective angst – a group-based emotion that stems from concern for the future vitality of one’s social group. We begin by discussing the anatomy of collective angst and how it differs from other collective emotions. We then outline factors that foster collective angst. Importantly, we provide a novel theoretical framework outlining both constructive and destructive means by which members may defend against a future that does not include their group. For example, we examine collective angst as a facilitator of, among other things, ingroup cohesion and outgroup aggression. Finally, we discuss how collective angst has manifested on the world stage as well as implications for relations within and between groups.

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