Belonging to a Group

Belonging to a Group


In this lesson, you will explore the basic human need to belong to a group and choose certain groups. You should come to understand conflict and affinity among groups in the context of immigration, connections and self-identification.


To start, go to and review Maslow’s Human Needs. As you read this resource, try to identify the need for love and belonging to a group.

Learning More About Groups
Now go to and read The Anthropology of Belonging. Once you have read this article, be prepared to answer questions like these:

  • Why do human beings have a basic need and desire to be in a group?
  • Why did our ancestors need to be in a group to survive?
  • What were consequences for our ancestors if they were social outcasts, shunned from the group?
  • What are the differences between Eastern and Western cultures in terms of belonging to a group, and the identity of the individual?
  • What are the consequences of being an outcast from the main group both physically and mentally today?

Negative Groups
Now you will consider what draws people to join negative groups. Go to and read Principles of Social Psychology in Group Involvement, by Gary Peterson. As you are reading this resource, look for answers to these questions:

  • What is this website about? Does it apply to us?
  • Can we substitute White Supremacists or another group for Heaven’s Gate?
  • What draws people to groups that are negative?
  • What compels people who are feeling alienated to join negative or "outsider" groups?
  • Can groups affect your behavior and encourage you to engage in behaviors you might not otherwise?

Groups and Freelooaders
Go on to investigate the ways that a group operates for effectiveness. Go to and read People Prefer Belonging to Groups in Which Members Can Punish Freeloaders. Answer these questions:

  • Do you agree with the article and the general assertion?
  • Do you feel the punishment of freeloaders is unfair?
  • How do we determine who is a freeloader in our society?
  • Do all societies have the same point of view?

Becoming a Cultural Anthropologist
Use the Fieldwork in the Classroom article to look at how some high-school students carried out some cultural anthropology interviews in their own school.

Answer these questions:

  • Why is it important to understand other cultures and groups?
  • As a cultural anthropologist, how would you go about gathering data on other cultures or groups? What observations would you like to make and what interview techniques would you use? What would your findings tell us?
  • Look at the interview questions the students in the article came up with. Are there any questions you would add?

Knowledge Check

As an individual or with a partner, use the four questions used by the students in Fieldwork in the Classroom article, plus any of your own, to conduct interviews of any other ESL students or faculty members in your school or community. Here are some guidelines for doing this activity:

  • Allow the people who are being interviewed to ask you questions as well. Record these questions and your answers.
  • Bring a video camera/still camera or tape recorder to capture the interview, if possible.
  • Conduct your debriefing session as described in the article. What were your findings?
  • Discuss the best way to present your findings.
  • Go onto the Web and explore the culture of the people you interviewed to add background information, visuals, and cultural artifacts to your presentation.
  • Present your findings to your class.

Here are some questions to consider as you review your findings:

  • How do members of the group represent their groups?
  • Can you make any generalizations about their groups based on your findings?
  • Put yourself in their shoes. If you were a member of that cultural group, what would be your main concerns?

This esheet is a part of the Belonging to a Group lesson.

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