Jay Van Bavel, and Dominic Packer have written a new book titled, The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony. It examines how group affiliations influence behavior and inspire both personal and social change.
During the BEHAVIOR CHANGE FOR GOOD INITIATIVE interview, Van Bavel talks about why he and Packer wrote The Power of Us, how shared identity can help us become better people, and what social science can teach us about tackling the challenges we face as an increasingly polarized society, among other topics.
You can watch a video of the interview on the Fall 2021 BCFG Virtual Events page.
The transcript of the interview, giving a nice insight of the book, is available at the WEF page: How to harness the power of belonging. However, please also have a look at more recent research of Jay Van Bavel, pointing at important elements of good group decision making.
Chapter 1 (The Power of Identity) provides an overview of the book, explaining the multifaceted nature of human identity, how groups (sometimes even of the most arbitrary kind) are often central to a person’s sense of self, and how the norms associated with those groups are powerful drivers of behavior.
Chapter 2 (Lens of Identity) explores how social identities shape how people perceive the world around them, influencing what they see, taste, and even smell. Identities provide lenses through which we experience life, but can also misdirect our attention and bias our judgments.
Chapter 3 (Sharing Reality) investigates how the beliefs people hold are often a product of the social dynamics of the groups they belong to. We examine the psychology of cults and explain how similar factors affect many groups and organizations. Critically, we argue that groupthink is not inevitable and that groups can adopt healthy norms that strive toward accuracy and truth.
Chapter 4 (Escaping Echo Chambers) focuses on the role of social identity in contemporary politics. We examine how the interplay between human psychology and new technologies, including social media, have contributed to rising partisanship and identify potential solutions for bridging divides.
Chapter 5 (The Value of Identity) examines why people value certain social identities more than others and how these identities imbue group traditions, symbols, and rituals with value. We discuss how core human motives, including needs for belonging, distinctiveness, and status, help explain otherwise paradoxical phenomena such as why people identify with underdogs.
Chapter 6 (Overcoming Bias) directly tackles the dark side of social identity. We examine the nature of intergroup biases and discuss how they are often grounded in long histories of oppression and institutional structures. Understanding how social identities work can offer solutions for reducing bias, but tackling systemic disparities also requires a broader scale of action.
Chapter 7 (Finding Solidarity) explains how social identities often arise in response to adversity and provide a foundation for prosocial behavior, as well as for members of marginalized groups (and their allies) to rally in solidarity in pursuit of social change.
Chapter 8 (Fostering Dissent) explores how insiders change their groups from within. We explain why people are often more willing to dissent if they care deeply about a group and how groups can create the conditions to capitalize on the rebels, critics, and rabble-rousers among their ranks.
Chapter 9 (Leading Effectively) investigates how leaders use the principles of identity to inspire and motivate their followers. We describe why leaders’ understanding of their own identities matters and how identity leadership can be used for great good, but also great evil.
Chapter 10 (The Future of Identity) focuses on the challenges that humanity confronts moving forward, especially with regard to rising inequality, climate change, and democratic backsliding. We argue that effectively grappling with these critical issues hinges on understanding the central role of identity in human social and political life.