Reference Groups



Reference Groups

Our thinking and behavior are often influenced by other people. When we admire and respect someone, we naturally try to imitate their behavior and attitudes. Groups of people whom we admire and whose behavior and attitudes we tend to imitate are known as reference groups. Reference groups provide a model – a frame of reference – that can shape how we think and behave. Over the course of a lifetime, we may be influenced by many different reference groups. As we grow older, or encounter new circumstances, our reference groups may change, and our attitudes and behavior may change accordingly.

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    <-NARRATOR:-> Now listen to part of a lecture in a sociology class on this topic.
    <-MALE PROFESSOR:-> I have an example from my own life that illustrates this.
    When I first began my university studies, I became friends with a bunch of art students.
    They were older and fun and very creative,
    and I thought they were really cool.
    And they all liked to dress really casually, in T-shirts and jeans and sneakers.
    That's what they wore all the time¡ª
    to class, to the library, to dinner, everywhere.
    T-shirts and jeans and sneakers.
    So that's what I started wearing, too.
    And I fit right in, and I felt really cool.
    But then I graduated, moved to Chicago, and got a job.
    And I started working with some really bright young people
    who'd already been working at the company for a few years,
    who were already handling major responsibilities for the company.
    Really impressive....
    And sometimes some of us would get together on the weekends¡ª
    maybe for a concert, or a baseball game, or something.
    And at first,
    I'd just wear a T-shirt and jeans and sneakers¡ªthat was, you know, how I was used to dressing....
    But I soon noticed that my coworkers preferred to dress up a little bit¡ª
    the men would wear a nice pair of pants, a button-up shirt;
    the women might wear a fashionable dress and some nice shoes"
    they dressed in clothes a lot nicer than what I was used to wearing.
    And I started thinking,
    "You know, that looks really classy, really sharp." ...
    And so I started to dress the same way they did¡ª
    you know, nicer,
    a little more formal. ...
    And I don't know,
    somehow my T-shirt and jeans and sneakers didn't seem as cool to me anymore.


Using the example from the lecture, explain how people's behavior is affected by reference groups.


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