Who is "we"? Group prototype and cohesion in sport


The identity of a group is captured in prototypical members who are perceived by members to embody the characteristics that define the group (Hogg, 1992; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Of importance, the specific attributes of this group prototype can serve two functions. The first is to enhance perceived intragroup similarity if attributes of prototypes are common with other members, while the second is maximizing intergroup differences if attributes are more extreme. This study tested how different identity prototypes relate to the way individual members perceive the cohesiveness of the group. Team sport athletes (n = 102) were asked to think about the group member who best embodied the team (i.e., group prototype) and report the degree to which the member had qualities that were common/similar (commonalities) or extreme/superior (differences) to other team members. The individual attraction to the team (task and social) dimensions of group cohesion also were assessed. Results of a canonical correlation model, Wilks' ? = .82, F (4, 194) = 5.20, p = .001, indicated a significant amount of overlap in the variability of the prototype and cohesion variable sets accounting for 18% of the variance. When a group prototype was assessed as being common/similar to teammates, individual attraction to the group across task and social dimensions were higher. These findings provide preliminary evidence of a link between group prototype and team cohesion in sport and suggests that when the prototype features commonalities rather than differences between sport team members, task and social cohesion perceptions are higher.

Acknowledgments: Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Scholarship to the first author (752-2014-2655)