Severe initiation into a group and ingroup loyalty: Cognitive dissonance or culture?

Caroline Kamau

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Initiation rites are a common feature of many cultures. Classic laboratory studies conducted in the West have shown that the more severe the group admission process (the initiation), the stronger the liking of the group joined. Cognitive Dissonance Theory is typically offered as the theoretical explanation offered for this effect. New group members are though to exaggerate their liking of their new group as a way of avoiding feelings of dissonance. However, this explanation overlooks the role of culture in group initiation rites across the world. In many world cultures, initiation rites have functions and consequences beyond those typically explored in existing psychological literature. Amongst many African tribes, initiation rites have a strong educational element and initiates are typically taught about important tribal customs/ practices. This paper explores the cultural functions of initiation rites amongst a variety of African tribes, arguing that initiation rites serve as important conveyors of cultural knowledge and as a way of preserving cultural knowledge from generation to generation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication4th Africa Region Conference of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP), 2nd to 6th August, Buea, Cameroon
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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