The social (dis)function of hazing: An evolutionary perspective

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  • Praxis comes from medieval latin and means: an accepted practice or custom.In fact, all cultural rituals can be considered praxises in the sense that they all established practices for groups of people.
  • Originally outlined by Aronson and Mills (1959), the basic hypothesis is that individuals who undergo hazing justify their high levels of effort by increasing their liking for the hazing group. The study of the motivational mechanisms behind Hazing started with this now classical article by Aronson and Mills where they stated that people who undergo severe initiations have a tendency to like show group liking (and probably solidarity and pro-social behavior) Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance also helps to understand the phenomenon of hazing by introducing the idea that: Increasing the liking for the group serves to reduce the inconsistency of thoughts that arise from two opposing thoughts. 1st If people undergo severe initiations, then the group must be worth the effort. For this to happen, people may inflate the degree to which they like the group in order to remove this psychological discomfort.And these are just a couple of example of social psychologycal theories that explain hazing through an intragroup valuation
  • The dominance macro theory is clearly a response to the manifest content of hazing, that is, the humiliating nature of many hazing practices and the humble, passive behavior expected of hazees.
  • Evolved mechanism to solve group problems related to newcomers (e.g. The existence of free riders)Hazing as a way to screen for commitment in new members of the group.


  • 1. The Social (Dis)function of Hazing Cultural Rituals Workshop 2014 Pedro Almeida
  • 2. Praxis (Bruno Moraes Cabral, 2011)
  • 3. Cited in Fisher (2013) : “the [ritual] group has an intellectual and moral conformity . . . everything is common to all. Movements are stereotyped; everybody performs the same ones in the same circumstances, and this conformity of conduct only translates the conformity of thought. Every mind being drawn into the same eddy, the individual type nearly confounds itself with that of the race” (Durkeim, 1995:18).
  • 4. Solidarity Macro Theory “(…) persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort." Aronson, E., & Mills, J. (1959). The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59 (2): 177–181. "It seems clear that the inclination to engage in behavior after extrinsic rewards are removed is not so much a function of past rewards themselves. Rather, and paradoxically, such persistence in behavior is increased by a history of non-rewards or inadequate rewards." Festinger, L. (1961). The psychological effects of insufficient rewards. American Psychologist 16 (1): 1–11.
  • 5. The Dark Side of Solidarity Macro Theory As well as increasing group attraction, hazing can produce conformity among new members (Keating et al., 2005) Similarly, this author has argued that the over-arching purpose of hazing is to create “dependence,” whereby abused individuals increase their liking of their abusers (as in Stockholm Syndrome).
  • 6. Dominance Macro Theory Durkheim (1912) notes that group members haze newcomers to “make them understand how superior [they feel]” (p. 318). Robidoux (2001) describes athletic hazers “celebrating their power over rookies” (p. 104). Nuwer (2000) actually defines hazing as an imposition of dominance, stating that hazing involves “any activity that requires new members to show subservience to old members” (p. 20)
  • 7. Commitment Macro Theory Vigil (1996) writes that severe gang initiations act to “weed out the weak and uncommitted” (p. 151). Smith (1964) suggests that lengthy fraternity inductions are “contrived for the pledging of commitment” (p. 29). Johnson (2000) writes of athletic hazees having to “prove their commitment” (p. 70).
  • 8. The Evolution of Hazing “The human mind may be designed to respond to new group members in a variety of ways, and one of those ways may be something other than a hug.” (Cimino, 2011) ∞ Iannaccone (1992) argues that painful initiations “screen out free riders” (p. 11). ∞ Moreland and Levine (2002) describe harsh initiations as “testing how committed newcomers are” (p. 191). ∞ Tiger (1984) theorizes that male hazing is “analogous to mate selection in the reproductive sphere”
  • 9. Field Experiment Theodor W. Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality Is there a correlation between antidemocratic ideals and hazing practices?
  • 10. If you Google “Praxe”
  • 11. If you Google “Fascism”
  • 12. ∞ Homogenous and fixed way of dressing, thinking, behaving i.e. totalitarianism and group-think ∞ Blind obedience towards authority ∞ (The illusion of) lack of other alternatives ∞ Hazing is actually also a part of the military itself...
  • 13. Discussion