Here we are in late March 2017, in the midst of a cultural crisis characterized by seemingly intransigent social division. We distrust one another deeply as we drift farther and farther apart, huddling in opposing corners. Emotions flare as distrust hardens into animosity and even hatred.
Whoa! We are headed past conflict and into aggression. In The Psychology of Group Aggression, Syracuse University Social Psychologist Alfred P. Goldstein explains that when people divide into groups, bias inevitably occurs, competition soon follows, and aggression is often not far behind.1 That is, multiple studies have shown that just by virtue of dividing into groups, people inevitably develop biases. Those in one’s own group are seen to have exaggerated positive qualities (this distortion is called “in-group favoritism”) while those outside the group are attributed with exaggerated negative qualities (known to sociologists as “out-group discrimination.”) Given these distorted perceptions, competition ensues as each group vies to protect its own position against the inferior “Other”. Once there is competition, anger and fear are natural consequences since by definition, in competition someone must win and someone must lose. Fear and anger are emotions underpinning aggression. And so we see how easy it is to slide from division to competition to fear and anger and ultimately into aggression.
Professor Goldstein studied many methods of reducing aggression among social groups but the one approach he found to be most successful was cooperative games!2 You can read more about the details of Professor Goldstein’s work in my book The Cooperative Games Bullying Prevention Program but suffice it to say that the good doctor has given us a prescription that we can easily and happily implement. It makes sense to play cooperative games in the workplace, in school settings, and other public settings where differences in political viewpoints are present. Playing with one another where all participants have the same objective (a “super-ordinate goal”), heals divisions and thereby defuses hostility and the potential for aggression. Instead of experiencing one another as members of rival groups, in a cooperative game, everyone is on the same team. We enjoy one another again! Joy! And we see that we can accomplish our goals by working with one another rather than against each other.
There is much more to say about how cooperative games can help us psychologically and culturally in these troubled times. Stay tuned for more blog posts from me. Meanwhile I bet you’ll have your own ideas on the topic. Please feel free to express your comments on this blog or any of the social media sites supporting Cooperative Games.com. Here’s to you, your precious life, and your desire to find a path to peace and joy through cooperative play!
You can find a variety of cooperative games at CooperativeGames.com . Many are free. Some are available for purchase.
1 Arnold P. Goldstein, The Psychology of Group Aggression (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002), 4-10
2 Goldstein, 146-148