More on the Psychology of Hazing

hazingPer our discussion of dissonance, check out this interesting blog post on the psychology of hazing.  Relevant to Chapter 6’s discussion of cognitive dissonance and our need to justify behavior, but also a variety of interesting topics we have discussed this term (and will discuss in the future).

Any responses?  For that matter, if we stipulate that hazing is a problem we’d like to eliminate, any social psychological ideas for how to combat the tendency?

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29 Responses to More on the Psychology of Hazing

  1. While in theory most people would say “no” to signing up for any organization that practices hazing, I think a lot of people put themselves through it because they see no other option. As a college freshmen, a lot of the times it is hard to make friends and when freshmen see the tight knit groups of friends in greek organizations, they desire that kind of friendship that they have not yet found. Therefore to an extent I can image them making a conscious sacrifice to experience the discomfort of hazing for a few weeks in order to gain the friendship they desire for the rest of their lives.

    Nothing about this is fair or acceptable, but a lot of times we are stuck in a corner where we see no other option so we choose to withstand some pain to gain the outcome we desire. For starters, if universities wanted to decrease hazing, they should install programs to create a better freshmen experience. That way freshmen won’t force themselves to experience hazing in order to make friends in the first place.

    • I agree with the part about the blame not being completely on the students shoulders–the university should create better spaces for students to be during the scary yet exciting freshman year that we all have experienced. Even more so, it is overwhelmingly true that oftentimes people are put in a position where they see no other option..recently the New York Times did an extraordinary piece about hazing on Parrish island–one of the Marine recruit training facility ( Its a pretty sad article, but really delves deep into the culture of feeling like theres nothing else one can do, and the outcomes of that.

      • ahoi01 says:

        I also read that NYT article and found it really fascinating. For me, that piece solidified the idea that in some organizations/groups, there is often an underlying culture of hazing that is so engrained that it becomes hard to break — even when it becomes dangerous and harmful. One of my old housemates is in ROTC, and she would tell us stories about “initiations,” and to the rest of us, it seemed like a thinly veiled term for hazing. For her, though, it’s both an integral component of joining the organization, as well as a source of camaraderie.

      • jstone08 says:

        I have thought deeply about this topic for a few years now. I think it’s easy to say that it is unfair to place the entire blame on the students. I agree that universities should create better spaces for freshman; however, this solution won’t necessarily solve the problem of hazing. It will merely decrease its frequency.

        I believe the true method to end hazing is to either have a person infiltrate the organization and end it from the inside. Or jeopardize the existence of the organization and try to overcome the strong dissonance experienced by its members who think that the behavior is necessary.

    • Yasie Nejad says:

      I completely agree. I think when students are looking at different schools, they definitely consider whether or not the school has greek life. For some, however, they associate hazing with greek life, and although that may not be the case for all of greek life, it certainly has the potential for it.

  2. Katherine Rose Alpert says:

    At Tufts, it appears that athletes share the closeness observed in Greek organizations. The athletes eat in the same section of Dewick, dress in Tufts gear, and host parties. More than other clubs, the athletes look cohesive and familial. I wonder if the rigorous workouts, early training hours, etc… have the same effect as hazing by creating a common denominator/shared experience to bond over?

    • I definitely agree, I think that the extent to which any one thing dominates the day to day both time wise and emotionally of those who engage with it, it does leads to tremendously close bonds. The intensity not only creates an “it was worth it” mentality, but also creates an entirely new language of engaging with the day to day, and set of experiences that only those who are a part of that same group can share in.

      • It really all is about shared experiences. People who participate in hazing activities usually haven’t discovered a better way to create such experiences. The rigorous workouts and early training hours significantly contribute to the creation of a team/family but since these athletes already have a similar interest/passion, they have something that they don’t need to find. So it’s not just the hard work that creates the culture, it is the late nights when they can relax, drink a beer, and enjoy one another with no real motives.

  3. I think that hazing in the context of cognitive dissonance is really interesting in the extent to which perhaps the initiation of membership into any group must come with a certain degree of dissonance as one adopts and adapts to the norms of that group. It is perhaps in the face of this dissonance that hazing rituals come into existence. I believe that if we are intent on preventing hazing in closed social circles, we must further investigate the driving force that brings not only them, but also even benign initiation rituals into existence.

    • John Peavy says:

      I agree that hazing can elicit an interesting discussion about cognitive dissonance but I wonder if in many cases people who have been hazed in greek life ever have to face a cognitive dissonance crisis. On many campuses with greek life, greek students are isolated from non-greeks and rarely have to confront non-greeks about their decision to stay after being hazed. I feel that constantly being an environment where norms of hazing are enforced makes it less likely that inconsistent thoughts about hazing rituals would every arise in the minds of these students.

  4. Daniel Dinjian says:

    I obviously recognize how hard and damaging hazing can be, but at the same time, I have a hard time seeing it as all bad. If there weren’t the extreme cases of hazing like branding, and death by alcohol poisoning and other ridiculous, over the top things like that, I think that it makes sense to work hard and go through a hazing period to join groups like frats, because it does create a brotherhood and a special bond. I think that in many cases, despite how bad hazing can be, the end reward can be worth it. So I wonder what other people think, and if you agree that hazing can be good in moderation. Where do you draw the line? What makes or characterizes hazing as too extreme?

    • Lucy B. Ren says:

      I wonder though, how long-lasting and legitimate this brotherhood is if hazing is required for this bond to form. Plenty of friendships are made without hazing and while I do agree that it’s a fast and effective way to bond a group together, I don’t necessarily think that it’s sustainable. I also think that the line between moderate hazing and dangerous hazing is a blurry line and it’s not quite so easy to distinguish between the two once the decision to have a hazing process has begun.

    • Bud Henry says:

      I think that hazing creates a shared experience where none was present before. That is to say, you’re able to cultivate friendships with people with whom you wouldn’t otherwise be friends. I think it’s used to positive effect in the military, where basic training takes the place of that. The important thing to recognize is that hazing is done to build a team, instead of to degrade specific individuals.

    • Kavya Boorgu says:

      If the argument being made here is the benefits of a shared experience, I believe that can come about in many ways. First of all, I feel there is a significant difference in the intensity of hazing simply between fraternities and sororities – often with members of frats being put through far more physical horrors than members of sororities do. However, would you say that a sorority’s bond is far less than a fraternity’s? I think there are far healthier ways of creating this “us vs them” mindset that the article mentions. Perhaps some of the more extreme activities can be replaced with group/team building activities ( like a retreat?) and challenging tasks that do not harm the physical or mental health of pledges. I have a strong bond with the girls on my dance team and they’ve grown to become my best friends, but we never went through hazing. We did, however, have shared challenging experiences like preparing for a competition or travelling to these performances.

  5. Meghan Wales says:

    It seems like the major issue with hazing is the justification process that occurs after the hazing. The “justification of effort” and the “need to give back” sections of the article really stuck out to me because of their connection to cognitive dissonance. This post-decision dissonance makes victims of hazing overemphasize the positive effects of the hazing. This attitude change can be damaging because it makes victims more likely to continue the process. They even may be more likely to make it harsher for the next generation. This greater reduces dissonance because if they are inflicting the hazing rituals they must be convincing themselves that it is beneficial. This made me think a lot about the time I was hazed at camp when I was fifteen. After the process was over I was able to be part of a secret society but the reward was not that great so I began to over-justify the process and its benefits. When I was sixteen I participated in the initiation rituals without any hesitation even though I had been scared during the process the year before because I had convinced myself it reward justified the cost. I think if Greek organizations become more aware of this psychological process hazing may become less intense because they would know why they were justifying the process.

    • Ki Jung Lee says:

      I agree that Greek organization should be more aware of this psychological process. However, I also wonder whether those who already participated in the hazing rituals would regret or decide that they would persuade others to not do in the future. They would have the belief perseverance, thus they would continuously support that the positive effects of the the hazing rituals even with these kinds of research paper discrediting the hazing ritual. I think one of methods to reduce the hazing ritual would be enforcing the long term education on negative aspects about hazing. Perhaps the better way would be the earlier comments about performing hazing with the moderation. I have experienced very nice induction to the group and some would say it was hazing. However, nobody forced me to drink or anything, yet I still felt I was part of the group. Thus, I think hazing at moderation could be a special ceremony for people.

      • Zihan Chai says:

        I agree that to better solve this issue, we need to stop the “slippery slope” and draw a red line between “moderate” hazing such as doing other’s laundry for a month and harmful hazing that involves unsafe sexual practice etc. Students, especially college freshmen, need to be told the harmful rituals that took place in the past recruitment of the Greek organizations/athletic teams, not to be made aware of the rituals when their feet are already “in the door.”

        It is also important to clarify that they have every right (and even moral obligation) to make public their experience with any group, whether or not the group asks the participants to keep secrets, and that they can quit the recruitment anytime without feeling ashamed.

        • Zihan Chai says:

          It is also important to clarify that they have every right (and even moral obligation) to make public their experience with any group when they feel they are harmed, whether or not the group asks the participants to keep secrets…

          Just to clarify a bit 🙂

  6. kate weddleton says:

    I would agree with the idea that trying to fully abolish hazing will never work, as current efforts to stop it usually go unheeded and as it apparently has some level of universality across the world. I also think that some hazing can be a positive thing (to an extent of course) due to its ability to form group bonds. That being said, when we read about how these bonds form, they may seem somewhat artificial. They are essentially based on a subconscious lie, as opposed to shared interests, shared beliefs, etc. But what matters most, the fact that a group of people are friends or the way that they got there? If you told two friends in a fraternity that they are only friends due to cognitive dissonance, they probably wouldn’t care. To them, what matters most is that they have people they can rely on, confide in, and trust, regardless of how that came to be.

  7. Yasie Nejad says:

    I think in order to combat hazing and try to prevent it from occurring, schools have to provide other ways and organizations to help students through their years at school. Oftentimes, it’s very difficult to make friends as a freshman, especially at a big school. So, I think that if students felt more connected to their school, despite how many people are in it, they would feel less compelled to subject themselves to hazing in order to feel included.

    • William Guerry says:

      I completely agree, but I also recognize that it’s very difficult for a school, particularly a large school, to offer organizations or rituals that could function analogously to fraternities and their rituals. A large portion of college students are interested in drinking alcohol and going to parties that will serve alcohol, despite being under 21. I think it’s fair to say that college drinking/alcohol culture is a significant part of many people’s college social lives, and universities cannot meet this demand themselves because of its illegality.

  8. Alexander Milstein says:

    I think hazing in any sense is completely unjustified , however , it is all subjective and up to an individual. Back in home , in Russia, we do not have fraternities or sororities in universities . And my friends can not believe that someone would put themselves willingly through such humiliation , just to be part of one group. Where is the sense of pride ? Why should humiliation lead to bonding ? Back in the days , such humiliation was considered to be asolutely shameful and for example walking in public naked was considered a punishment for unfaithful women . A punishment. And nowadays it becomes a willing act , done to be cool. Men bonding back in the days and even now was achieved not through heavy drinking and throwing up in one bucket , but in war zones , going through REAL hardships together , helping each other in diffcult situations , being by each other sides whenever and wherever, standing up and fighting for your friend even if there are hundreds against you . That was real men friendship and bonding . Through real life experiences that were not empty , humiliating and silly . Only real life problems and exepreicnes shows who is your friend and who is not . Not drinking bottles of vodka together or withstanding boiling water being poured on you . And for what???
    Sacrifice your pride to be part of a “cool” group ? That only shows how one treats oneself . With no respect .

    • I think you bring up a very interesting idea. The United States, collectively in society, focuses very heavily on power and authority, the need to be in control. In other words, society creates a place where everyone feels that they deserve to be in control of something. An example of which is sports, which are (relatively) harmless derivations of war and combat. No other country besides the US endorses sports, even at a collegiate level, to such a degree, and watching events such as football games can satiate our desire for power, as each side will ultimately either win or lose. Hazing serves to reinforce the power and control of these institutions, and I believe that’s why hazing is a very big issue in sports.

  9. I connected the self-discrepancy theory to hazing. When students go to college they imagine the person they ought to be. Similarly, they underestimate their actual self. So for them, they begin this process of first finding the ought stage (often rushed) then finding ways to get there. Unfortunately, groups that haze, mostly frats in this context, provide an extremely social experience. And within this social scene, there is extreme competition. They have no reason to start letting freshman into this scene with no consequence. Schools/people either need to find more channels for people to find their ‘oughts’ … I don’t know, maybe lower the drinking age, or newcomers need to provide more value. When groups struggle together, they grow together… it’s the easiest way to make something very inauthentic as authentic as possible.

  10. William Guerry says:

    I think the desire for a sense of community and some sort of social security, particularly amongst new college students, is likely the most significant motivator for students to willingly undergo brutal hazing rituals. Being new on a college campus and having to make a social circle for yourself is difficult, and without such a social circle many people are anxious or lonely. I think most people who are willing to put themselves through hazing rituals are attracted to the sense of community promised by undergoing these rituals with other students. Like the article says, hazing rituals often aim to bring people together and create a feeling of kinship, and many rituals require teamwork, group sacrifice, and intimacy amongst participants. In a way, going through hazing rituals is a way to make close friends fast, which is very appealing amongst a group of students who are likely figuring out a new life for themselves in a new place with new people. I’m not saying that hazing practices are good because they bring people together at all, I think hazing rituals are often dangerous and unnecessarily unpleasant, but I understand why people subject themselves to such rituals and refuse to acknowledge the brutality of it later on.

  11. Aubrey Tan says:

    I realize that this is a very controversial topic among college students and especially at tufts with all the commotion that occurred over the past 2 semesters over greek life. I understanding that others have brought up very relevant points regarding the downsides of hazing and it’s bad stigma. However, I might share a different opinion regarding this article. My experience with Greek life at tufts was mostly positive and I didn’t have much trouble fitting in my freshman year. During the first semester of my sophomore year I decided to join one of the more notorious frats on campus who was rumored for their harsher tactics. Maybe joining later lead me to a different view but I do admit that I was hazed and had to do some wild things throughout the semester. For me, I thought long and hard about joining a Greek organization and I really wanted to with an open mind. I knew that I would be subjected to rituals and whatnot but my curiosity lead me to experience all that. Personally I enjoyed most of the events even though other people might think I’m delusional. People who only hear rumors and stereotype might disagree with my stance, I had a very fun time going through the pledging process. The entire thing wasn’t revolved around punishment or humiliation from my perspective, but rather a connection with a bunch of uniques characters that I would never have crossed paths with if i chose not to join.

  12. Kavya Boorgu says:

    As I read this article on the psychology of hazing, I kept seeing reasons that seemed very general and definitely not exclusive to the kind of hazing seen in Greek life. For example, that they are a tightly guarded secret, the notion of a sunk cost, the justification effort, and creating cohesiveness by an us vs them mindset. If the true reason for hazing is to create a brotherhood/sisterhood, much of the maliciousness that comes about is not required. There are countless campus groups that share tight bonds with their members and there are also Greek life organizations where that bond is not so strongly present. I don’t believe the reasons listed to put members through the horrific ordeals of hazing give the full picture. In fact, I think back to the Stanford Prison Experiment, which examined the psychological effects of perceived power, with college students polarizing their assigned roles of prison officers to the point of abuse and students in the role of prisoners subjecting themselves to such abuse. I feel that a similar power dynamic can easily arise when hazing rituals begin to get out of hand, and placing such power in the hands of college students with impaired perceptions (especially in instances where they are drunk) is a dangerous system.

  13. Rebecca says:

    I think the effect of the “justification of effort” on the formation and change of Greek organization member’s perception of hazing is worthy to be widely explicated. Coming from a culture in which hazing is generally seen as a discouraged and hostile ritual practiced among only young children, I doubt that hazing plays an indispensable role at building the cohesiveness of a group and the joy of being a member of a group.

    To me, hazing seems to be a relatively formalistic tradition that does not bond the involved individuals in a much deep and substantial way. And therefore it appears that hazing, not matter how intricately designed and conducted, would not hold a group that is not fun or meaningful to begin with; or, in the other way, it will be unlikely that the lack of hazing will prevent a group that is by nature attractive from growing. Therefore, I believe that the significance of hazing is exaggerated by those who have already gone through it. And an education on the “justification of effort,” which is the reason behind this exaggeration process conducting to college students might help to reduce the severity of hazing.

  14. Matt says:

    I completely agree. I think when students are looking at different schools, they definitely consider whether or not the school has greek life.

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