Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 35

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE other pastor and negatively evaluated him based on criteria that pertained to those ideals. Essentially, each pastor gave the other a failing grade on leadership because each had very different criteria for evaluating leadership. Neither pastor was aware of this perspective divergence, and, consequently, neither had thought to address this difference in leadership ideals. Once we were able to uncover the perspective divergence and its devastating contribution to intergroup misunderstanding, the pastors were able to begin to seek to understand each other’s perspective and work toward healing. If the two church groups project their prototypical group member onto the superordinate group—in this case, probably the denomination or body of Christ—they can easily misunderstand and devalue each other’s group and viewpoint. Group polarization and perspective divergence lead to disastrous intergroup relationships. Not only do group members swing to extremes in order to distance themselves from rivals, they also boldly believe that their increasingly polarized opinions, unique characteristics, and distanced group members wholly and accurately represent the superordinate group, which includes the outgroup. In this way, outgroups are further marginalized because they are perceived as “out of touch” and “incompetent.” Meanwhile, ingroup members are convinced that they have a perfect grasp on reality. One serious consequence of the division caused by group polarization and perspective divergence is that ingroup members are no longer willing to receive much-needed information from outgroup members. Research reveals that people are unlikely to receive information from outgroup members, even if the information would help them successfully complete a difficult task. In one study, Dominic Abrams et al.24 divided groups of participants into smaller groups based on trivial categories (e.g., groups based on numbers that were randomly assigned to them). Then, participants were asked to complete a difficult perceptual task while receiving helpful information from members of either their ingroup or outgroup. They found that participants did not rely on input from outgroup members even when it would have been useful for them to do so. Instead, they toiled on alone. Abrams et al. wrote that “[participants] resisted information purely on the basis that it was derived from a category of person to which they did not belong.”25 24. Dominic Abrams et al., “Knowing What to Think by Knowing Who You Are: Self-Categorization and the Nature of Norm Formation, Conformity and Group Polarization,” in Intergroup Relations, ed. Michael A. Hogg and Dominic Abrams (New York: Psychology Press, 2001), 270–288. 25. Ibid., 276. 34