Can emotions be truly group level? Evidence regarding four conceptual criteria

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Sep;93(3):431-46. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.3.431.


Recent advances in understanding prejudice and intergroup behavior have made clear that emotions help explain people's reactions to social groups and their members. Intergroup emotions theory (D. M. Mackie, T. Devos, & E. R. Smith, 2000; E. R. Smith, 1993) holds that intergroup emotions are experienced by individuals when they identify with a social group, making the group part of the psychological self. What differentiates such group-level emotions from emotions that occur purely at the individual level? The authors argue that 4 key criteria define group-level emotions: Group emotions are distinct from the same person's individual-level emotions, depend on the person's degree of group identification, are socially shared within a group, and contribute to regulating intragroup and intergroup attitudes and behavior. Evidence from 2 studies supports all 4 of these predictions and thus points to the meaningfulness, coherence, and functionality of group-level emotions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Politics
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Conformity
  • Social Identification*