Academic sociology : Why do we join groups ?

It seems that we are all a member of at least one group; most of us are a member of many. Although our membership within some of these groups is probably involuntary (e.g., family), we go out of our way to join other groups. We join book clubs, bowling leagues, congregations, and tag-football teams, just to name a few. Some of us even go so far as to join extremist groups such as terrorist cells or violent political movements. What draws us to seek membership within these varied groups? Why are we willing to sacrifice our own time, energy, and resources for the sake of the groups to which we belong ?

Hogg, Hohman, and Rivera (2008) examined these questions from a social-psychological perspective by contrasting three motivational accounts for group membership. These explanations originate from work on the sociometer model, terror management theory, and uncertainty-identity theory. The sociometer model argues that people have a need to be belong, and that self-esteem acts as a meter of successful group belonging. Greater feelings of inclusion within groups should equate to higher levels of self-esteem according to this model. Terror management theory argues that people are motivated to reduce fear of their own death, and that groups provide consensual belief-confirmation that drives their members to belong. It is comforting to share our world views with like-minded others and to hear them share similar views because it provides us with a sense of meaningful existence. Uncertainty-identity theory argues that people have a basic need to reduce uncertainty about themselves and their place in the world, and that group identification can reduce such uncertainty. Group membership may reduce this uncertainty through its associated norms that prescribe attitudes, feelings, and behaviors for us.

Hogg et al. (2008) conclude that the sociometer model, terror-management theory, and uncertainty-identity theory each play a role in explaining why people join groups. Yet, they argue that uncertainty-identity theory might provide an especially powerful explanation because of its wide generality to all groups and group contexts. What do you think ? Do these explanations account for why you joined the groups that you are a part of, or does some other framework better explain your reasons for group membership ?


Google+ Invitations : We all want one. Why ?

Those who pay attention to the online world will probably know that Google+ fever is sweeping the blogosphere. Everyone wants an invite to the “Facebook killer” and invites are pretty hard to come by. If you are lucky enough to have one, you can brag about being in the group early and if not, you are left wondering what is going on in there and will you ever get to be a part of it. Invites are in such demand they are even popping up for sale on ebay for as much as $100.

What is the rush and why are we all clamouring to jump on board the Google+ ship when we don’t even know what it’s all about? Well for one, we humans love to belong to groups. And what could be better than belonging to Google+, a group which is entirely based on the ability to form groups. Because Google+ is by invitation only, the boundaries are less permeable than Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the other social networking sites; anyone can join those simply by signing up. Permeability of boundaries has been linked to group identification in numerous psychology studies. Members of groups with highly permeable boundaries have reduced ingroup identification. So a person who is on Facebook just won’t feel as passionate about being a “Facebook user” as someone who is part of Google+.  Google+ users on the other hand, feel strongly about their membership and are spreading their new ingroup love, which automatically makes Google+ seem pretty cool and exclusive.

We are now willing to buy our way into a group that four days ago didn’t even exist because if there is one thing people hate, it’s being excluded.  By releasing the new social networking site as invite only, Google has created something we want to be part of but most just can’t. In a review of research on social exclusion, Dewall and colleagues (2010) highlight how being left out can cause numerous behavioural and emotional problems. Social exclusion can lead to increased aggression, decrease pro-social behaviour, and even induce actual physical pain. Hopefully more invites will open up before those who are being excluded start suffering the negative effects of social exclusion.

And yes, I am still waiting for my invite too.

Almost Done

I managed to take my big box of stuff home the other night. I keep getting reminding of things that I am not going to miss, or things that I will.

Things that I will not miss:

  • The post-doc and technicians in my current lab.
  • The fact that the water is brown in this building.
  • The undergrads taking up every available space.
Things that I will miss:
  • The many options I have to eat lunch.
  • My coffee shop (with perfect raspberry croissants).
  • The lab next to mine.
  • Kathy telling me ‘Happy Rainy Monday’.
  • My labmates.
  • Being able to drink coffee at my desk.
  • My office.
Things that might be cool:
  • Being in close proximity to a Whole Foods.
  • Being in close proximity to my best friend’s place of work.
  • Being in a relatively new building.
  • Being the ‘responsible’ one.
  • Getting to start again, knowing what I know now.

Education : Agile Curriculum Development, A New Framework

Description : Many believe that the Agile methodology is utilized only in the field of Information Technology. Really, the influence of software engineering methodologies and practices over Instructional Systems Design has been ongoing since Computer Based Training. Realizing its potential, we have used the Agile methodology to build curriculum. Learn how we build and more quickly market high-quality training, build high-performance teams, use a better means of estimating work throughput and provide accountability to our curriculum development.

  • What is an Agile framework ?
  • Applying Agile to curriculum development
  • How Agile creates urgency, better planning and enhanced communications


Introduction (5 minutes)
The Myth of Work in the Federal Government (interactive 5 minutes)
What does Agile mean? (interactive 5 minutes)
Agile and Storytelling (interactive 5 minutes)
Roles in Agile (interactive 5 minutes)
Our Experience in Curriculum Development (10 minutes)
Discussion (interactive 25 minutes)

Time to start thinking about the future 2

We decided that next year we’re going to rework our planning — the literary analysis papers will cover short stories rather then poetry. We’ll also give the students more choice when it comes to writing that paper. When it comes to the research paper, we’re going to do the multigenre paper, and we’ll only require that a certain segment of the paper follow the rules of MLA — making this a research essay instead of a research paper. This will allow for a variety of topics, and will likely bring the students clsoer to their writing, as they’ll worry about a topic where they’re the providers of information, and that any specific information will come from secondary sources.

For the past three years I’ve had my students focus their research on the Holocaust, and I think that’s an undeniably important topic — they’re so far removed from those events that doing the research brings them closer to their own history (whether they know it or not), and it’s a topic that should never be forgotten. I’ll not give up on the Holocaust topic (and I’ll likely use it as a stepping stone for this new, more personal version of the research paper), because I just can’t; it’s part of who I am.

There’s much to wrestle with before we get to that point next year, but right now I’m looking upon it all with a smile. I’m happy with this new direction, and I think it will breathe some fresh air into the students halfway through the year. I think the paper we grade earlier in the year will be better suited to the fact the students have never done an analysis of an author’s style. I think we’re making great strides by planning this out today, rather than waiting another year.

We’ve also got some wonderful ideas up our sleeves about the coming summer school session, and I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about the new class I’m taking on next year. But that’s all for another post.

Transforming SMEs into Curriculum Developers : Teach Them to Fish

Description: In any training environment, good instructional designers know that it is imperative to be aligned with business employees. So what happens when you turn high-performing SMEs into great curriculum developers? Learn about JetBlue University’s curriculum developer model and what we are doing to transition and provide ongoing professional development for SMEs while saving costs, time and valuable ISD resources.

  • Why and how the role of SMEs started to change
  • Opportunities and challenges
  • Tools, skill sets, theory and ROI

Outline :
Set the stage : JetBlue University and JetBlue Airways – title

JetBlue University org chart/break down

Learning Technology (support function role)

What was done in the past (Old NYU program, book clubs, one off classes and workshops)

The role of SMEs started to change

Opportunities and Challenges: SMEs role, Solutions role in the ability to franchise

Selecting easy to use, consistent tools

Skill set and theory

Return on Investment

Ongoing development

Learning at the Moment of “Apply”

Description: There has never been a better time to step into the world of performance support. Almost 80% of learning is done in the context of work at “the moment of apply”: a moment that most learning offerings don’t target. Now more than ever, employees require performance support and organizations are ready to provide it – whether they know it or not! This session will ground you in the fundamentals of performance support.

  • What is (and what is not) performance support?
  • The five types of performance support: the vital role they can play in your organization and where to start introducing them
  • How performance support complements emerging trends and technologies like mobile learning and social networking

Outline :

1. Defining performance support (5 Minutes)
2. Understanding the instructional importance of meeting the “5 Moments of Need” (10 Minutes)
3. The tools of performance support (10 Minutes)
4. Design structures for performance support (15 minutes)
5. Integrating performance support into the formal classroom (20 Minutes)