The Black Sheep Within The Group

It is said that in every family there is a black sheep. This metaphor is used to qualify those who are different from the majority. These differences can come from both physical appearance and preferences or behaviors. Thus, being the black sheep of the family means being different from the rest of the family members.

However, the term black sheep also seems to have negative aspects associated with it. Nobody wants to be the black sheep of a group since this implies qualifications such as “marginalized”, “deviant” or ” antisocial “, as well as others related to little accepted qualities. In addition, the term black sheep is also intended for scapegoats or those who bear the guilt of others.

The categorization of the self

As is known, people belong to different groups. A human tendency is to simplify, to simplify the world in order to understand it more easily. In this way, we create different categories in which we place people. By creating these categories, we also included ourselves in some of them. This is what is called the theory of the categorization of the self.

By creating categories and grouping them together, we form groups and consider those who share those categories to belong to that group. Without forgetting that we are also going to be in some of those groups. According to the theory of social identity, these groups to which we belong are going to make us feel good. They will give us a feeling of belonging.

“A family without a black sheep is not a typical family.”

-Heinrich Böll-

Favoritism and discrimination

Our group, also known as an in-group, will differ from other groups or out-groups. So let’s describe our group not just for what it is, but for what it is compared to outgroups. In this way, the in-group will fare better out of a comparison with a worse out-group. Therefore we will tend to compare it with lower groups. However, this is not always possible.

Sometimes we have to compare the in-group with superior groups, a comparison in which we lose out. Luckily, there are different mechanisms that help us feel good about our group even when it is inferior to other groups. The two best known mechanisms are endogroup favoritism and exgroup discrimination, encompassed within the endogroup bias.

In-group favoritism consists of favoring members of the in-group. This can be done by helping them more or by keeping a better image of them. On the contrary, out-of-group discrimination consists in putting the members of the out-group in a worse value, which is usually done through prejudice or discriminatory behavior. Anyway, we value in-group members more than outgroup members. But what happens when the “bad guys” belong to our group?

“In a distant country a black sheep existed many years ago. She was shot. A century later, the repentant flock raised an equestrian statue for him that looked very good in the park. Thus, from now on, each time black sheep appeared they were quickly put to arms so that future generations of ordinary sheep could also practice sculpture ”.

-Augusto Monterroso-

The black sheep effect

Sometimes the bad guys are part of our group. When this happens, when members of the endogroup do not follow the norms or transgress the values ​​of the group, the black sheep effect occurs. What do we do on these occasions? According to the black sheep effect, on these occasions we treat the members of our group more harshly. In other words, if someone performs offensive behavior, we will treat them worse if they are a member of the in-group than if they are a member of the out-group.

Why are we going to evaluate the members of our group worse? The black sheep effect indicates that treating them more harshly will help us maintain the positive image of our group. That is, a group that punishes those who deviate is better seen than another that remains impassive in the face of non-compliance with its rules. Consequently, the in-group members are responsible for punishing and ensuring that the other members follow the group’s rules. As the popular saying indicates: who loves you well, will make you cry (comply).