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Shared RealityWhat Makes Us Strong and Tears Us Apart$
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E. Tory Higgins

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190948054

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190948054.001.0001

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How We Get Along

How We Get Along

Bringing Us Together and Tearing Us Apart

(p.251) 11 How We Get Along
Shared Reality

E. Tory Higgins

Oxford University Press

It doesn’t take much of a difference between groups to make in-group–out-group discrimination occur. High schoolers can discriminate on the basis of preference for the paintings of Klee versus Kandinsky. Third-grade children can discriminate on the basis of eye color. The two social identification mechanisms that contribute to discrimination relate to the epistemic and social relational motives underlying shared reality creation. By accentuating similarities within social categories and differences between them, we can order, simplify, and make sense of our complex social world. This epistemic motive, however, is not enough to account for the discrimination of favoring your own group over the other group—in-group favoritism. This comes from the social relational motive of creating a shared reality with others, with wanting a positive connection to those with whom you have a shared reality and experience yourself and others as belonging to the same social category—the we of social identification. Having a common social identity with other in-group members can make interactions relatively smooth, effortless and pleasant, but it does not necessarily make them more productive because the group members often discuss what they share with one another rather than what they don’t share. The roles that we enact are also shared realities that can bias our perception of the world by determining what is relevant and significant. Shared reality perceptions are also critical in close relationships where partners must experience that they are a positive unit who sees and responds to the world in the same way.

Keywords:   shared reality, in-group/out-group, social discrimination, in-group favoritism, social identity, social identification, social roles, close relationships

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