2004
Volume 113, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244

Abstract

Abstract

In existing (evolutionary) explanations for group formation and -identification, the function of cultural conventions such as social etiquette and dress codes is limited to providing group-markers. Group formation and identification itself is explained in terms of less arbitrary and more substantial phenomena such as shared norms and institutions. In this paper I will argue that, however trivial and arbitrary, cultural conventions fulfil an important cognitive function that makes them essential to the formation of and identification with large groups. Complex role-division, both informal and institutional, is important in the functioning of any large group of people. Shared conventions enable a virtually automatic understanding of signals, scripts and rules that regulate the interaction of divided roles. They provide a cultural infrastructure within which we perceive e.g. specific behavior and clothing as a range of social-cultural affordances for role-interactions. Shared familiarity with this infrastructure is the foundation for the basic kind of trust of in-group strangers that is a requirement for the formation of large groups. This non-intellectualist view on group formation and group identification can contribute to new ways of dealing with problems in multicultural societies.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): coordination; cultural conventions; culture and cognition; group identification
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