Are They In or Are They Out? Questioning Category Relations in the Study of Helping

Caoimhe Ryan, Stephen Reicher, S. Alexander Haslam

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this chapter, we draw attention to the way in which issues of helping and solidarity revolve around the ways that others come to be constituted as ingroup and outgroup. In our analysis, we focus largely upon texts of mobilisation—that is, the speeches and the leaflets and the tracts used to persuade people to help others and to oppose their persecution. We examine how identities are defined in these texts, how the various protagonists stand in relation to each other, and how—in particular—victims are posed as ingroup or outgroup to (potential) rescuers. Our key argument is that persuading people to become rescuers is bound up with defining victims as part of the ingroup. We then ask more generally how we can come to identify with victims more so than with those who persecute them, and to do so we draw upon Stanley Milgram’s hugely (in)famous Yale studies (Milgram, Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper & Row, 1974). It is possible to reconceptualise these studies in terms of a participant positioned between two voices—one the experimenter/persecutor, the other the learner/victim—who are making incompatible demands. The persecutor urges the participant to continue inflicting electric shocks; the victim implores the participant to stop. Who will the participant listen to? Which voice will prevail? The answer, we argue, is a matter of relative identification (Haslam & Reicher, PLoS Biol 10(11):e1001426, 2012; Reicher & Haslam, Br J Soc Psychol 50:163–169, 2011). That is, the more participants identify with the experimenter as a representative of a shared scientific cause, the more they will obey and continue shocking. But conversely, the more they identify with the learner as a fellow citizen, the more they will defy the experimenter and stop shocking—that is, the more they will help the victim.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntergroup Helping
EditorsEsther van Leeuwen, Hanna Zagefka
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-53026-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-53024-6
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2017


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