The Beehive Encyclopaedia: What Are Social Groups?

Social groups are groups of individuals defined by any set of similar characteristics. Those characteristics can be about who they are – i.e. their demographics, such as origin, income, age and ethnicity – or what they believe – their interests, for example. A group-defining interest doesn’t need to be something the group benefits from directly or particularly. A social group can be defined, for example, by their interest in protecting ethnical minorities (regardless of belonging to them) or fighting climate change (which in theory benefits everyone). Despite the term, people within those groups don’t need to know each other (see secondary groups), hold ties with one another, wish to be in those groups or even be aware of their existence as part of them. Those groups are not mutually exclusive – we all belong to social groups and each of us belongs individually to more than one group. Someone can for example simultaneously belong to the groups of African descents, millennials and climate change advocates.

Social groups are a useful tool to analyse society directionally. However, because each of us is comprised of a unique and complex combination of characteristics, they often rely on approximation and forced typification and are to some degree a fictional concept. Worth mentioning, we are more likely to spread misinformation when we actively identify as or proudly belong to a social group, either because we want to defend that group or because we unsconciously want to believe in the things that help us belong to it (see How are our opinions formed).  

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