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What are the positives and the shortcomings to our ‘groupishness’?

When we are ‘groupish’ we look out for one another, we care for one another, and we engage in reciprocal or cooperative behaviors that are more other-regarding. When we privilege relationality, we experience less stress and our empathy increases. When we are ‘groupish’ we have more oxytocin which makes us love our ‘in-group’ more. While this is good to love others in our group, it can also contribute to bias and potential narrowing of perspective in terms of what others might bring to contribute to a project or situation. Haidt calls this being a ‘parochial altruist.’ (The Righteous Mind, 272). Because we are conditionally ‘groupish’ “we are more likely to mirror and then empathize with others when they have conformed to our moral matrix than when they have violated it.” (Haidt The Righteous Mind, 274). This can be polarizing in the sense that we are biased towards those we like and approve of and are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt than someone exhibiting the same behavior but who is not aligned with our moral matrix.

How can we increase interpersonal and social trust (draw upon insights from "The Evolution of Trust")?

Game theory through the Evolution of Trust found that to build trust we need to create the conditions by:

  • nurturing opportunities for repeated interactions – familiarity builds trust Trust is increased through shared activities that create group pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm. So, one way to increase interpersonal and social trust is to hang out with people! This doesn’t have to be an agenda but simply getting to know more about your colleagues or collaborators engenders more trust and a psychologically safe environment in which to relate and pursue mutual goals. (Haidt, The Righteous Mind, 275)

  • creating opportunities for shared wins and shared purpose Apparently having a karaoke event or friendly inter-departmental competitions also increases trust – these fun team building events are important to make time for and will ‘pay off’ in terms of increased trust when working collaboratively on shared goals. (Haidt, The Righteous Mind, 279)

  • when mistakes happen like miscommunication, forgive don’t retaliate.

Here are two other ways to build trust:

Mirroring is a method that builds on the idea that “we trust and cooperate more readily with people who look, and sound like us.” (Haidt The Righteous Mind, 244) Because of this finding it is helpful to know the ‘dress code’ and general cultural norms of an organization in order to be perceived as someone who ‘gets it’ and ‘fits’; this may contribute to other people accepting and trusting you. This is not to say that we can’t be individuals with our own style, but there is an acceptable ‘range’ of what others will unofficially ‘allow’ in terms of difference. I find this interesting and important to share with young people as they are entering the work world. While their fun hair color, body art and piercings may well be an expression of their individuality they should be aware of how this may be received in corporate culture or any specific culture such as a church culture. It doesn’t make their choices wrong, but it impacts how they will be received and trusted.

Trust is built by increasing similarity, not diversity. I find this finding interesting given quest to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). It makes sense to me that making everyone feel a part of a family and not focusing on differences increases group membership and trust and I also realize the importance of allowing people to be their unique selves.

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