A Sense of Belonging

Marilynn Brewer University of New South Wales, Australia

Brewer_Marilynn_100x120Are wars, rivalries, and other conflicts an inevitable part of intergroup relations? Marilynn Brewer says no. Internationally recognized for her research on social identity, collective decision making, prejudice, and intergroup relations, Brewer showed that people attach themselves to a group not because of ill feelings toward other groups, but because they simply are looking for a place of trust and security. Brewer is particularly recognized for her theory of optimal distinctiveness, based on the idea that the conflicting costs and benefits of sustaining an optimal group size would have shaped social motives at the individual level. The theory posited that we have distinct, and opposing, drives to belong to groups and to assert our individuality. As we feel more included in a group, our need to differentiate ourselves becomes more salient. This motivates us to identify with distinctive groups that can satisfy both needs simultaneously. Brewer is an APS Past President and recipient of a special 25th anniversary APS William James Fellow Award for her lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology. Read more about Brewer’s research here.