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Positive Group Perception Created With Intense Initiation

Group Initiation and Member Perceptions. Psychological study done in 1959 says people who go through a more "harsh" group initiation process are more likely to have a positive perception of the group. [Common Craft]

In 1959, a study Effect of Severity of Initiation on Liking for a Group for the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology found that the more selective membership organizations are in their members, the more value they associate with the group. Tom Coates starts this discussion on Everything in Moderation with The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group.

Lee LeFever continues the discussion at Common Craft with Group Initiation and Member Perceptions. While both discuss on-line communities, this study has implications to any organizations members or employees. While the following examples may be simplified, consider them while you think about the composition of your own organization.

Name any top company to work for, leading charitable organization, or prestigious membership organization to find each has most of the following:

  1. Strict membership requirements,
  2. Considerable effort required to obtain members,
  3. Time or physical commitment required,
  4. Group associates itself with success in area of mission,
  5. Clearly defined membership criteria,
  6. Holds its members to a higher standard (or internal measure),
  7. Reduces interactions with outside observers,
  8. Specialized meeting places or indoctrination ritual,
  9. Internal language or terms understood by members,
  10. Limited access by outside individuals not accepted into membership,
  11. Traditions and ritual define existence,

Create a positive but intense experience for new members by standing firm with indoctrination ritual, even if it seems primitive in a modern society. You'll discover new members have a greater respect for the organization and over-time contribute more productively to the groups mission.


  1. Aronson, E., & Mills, J. (1959). Effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59, 177-181

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By Justin Hitt at November 2, 2003 11:10 PM  Subscribe in a reader


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