How descriptive norms and social identity interact in predicting antisocial ingroup behaviours

  • Alex J Benson Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Mark W Bruner Nipissing University
  • Mark Eys Wilfrid Laurier University


When membership in a particular group is psychologically salient, individuals are motivated to engage in behaviours that reinforce their identity in that group (Terry et al., 1999). This suggests that athletes who strongly identify with their team may be prone to derogate and chastise teammates in groups where ingroup antisocial behaviours are normative. The current research tested the hypothesis that both exclusionary social norms and antisocial practice norms would moderate the relationship between social identity and ingroup antisocial behaviours. Participants (N = 213, all female) were members of flag football teams (k = 13), all of whom completed measures assessing social identity (ingroup ties, cognitive centrality, ingroup affect), exclusionary social norms, antisocial practice norms, and ingroup antisocial behaviours. A series of moderated multiple regressions revealed that the dimensions of social identity interacted with both types of norms in predicting ingroup antisocial behaviours (ps < .03). At lower levels of exclusionary social norms, social identity was not significantly related to ingroup antisocial behaviours. At lower levels of antisocial practice norms, social identity was negatively related to ingroup antisocial behaviours. At higher levels of both types of norms, however, social identity generally emerged as a positive predictor of ingroup antisocial behaviours. These findings build upon work that examined the mechanisms through which social identities influence morally relevant behaviours in sport (Bruner et al., 2014). Drawing attention to the moderating role of descriptive norms provides insight into the circumstances in which a stronger social identity may actually promote ingroup antisocial behaviours.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada