Male identity: an island no man wants to visit

John Barry, Male Psychology Network

The phenomenon of ingroup favouritism and outgroup bias is a cornerstone of social psychology. The strength of such biases vary by group e.g. it is well-established that higher-status groups invoke more ingroup bias (e.g. Nosek et al, 2002). Men in general (historically and cross-culturally) have higher status than women in the public realm (politics, finance etc), so one would expect that male identity invokes a high level of ingroup bias. However research shows that – uniquely in social identity theory – male identity, unlike female identity, invokes no significant ingroup bias (e.g. Richeson & Ambady, 2001).

Men support each other effectively when the identity is based on something other than being male (e.g. football teams), but how do we explain the incohesive effect of male identity? There are several possibilities. For example, it could be that because infant attachment mostly happens with women (mothers), this programmes for greater bias towards women in later life (Rudman, 2004). Similarly, it could be that men are stereotypically more associated with violence and aggression, thus invoke less sympathy (Rudman & Goodman, 2004). Or it could be that on an evolutionary level, males are seen as the providers of protection, not the recipients of protection (Seager et al, 2016).

There are wide-ranging implications for men’s wellbeing.  For example, although men commit suicide at three times the rate that women do (ONS, 2015), there is little attempt to understand why nor to reduce this problem.  These issues will be critically discussed in our symposium.

The subject of identity will be discussed at a symposium UCL on 29th June, 9 am – 5pm. Male Identity will be presented as a poster presentation. 


Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002a). Harvesting

implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration Web site.

Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6, 101–115.

Richeson, J. A., & Ambady, N. (2001). Who’s in charge? Effects of

situational roles on automatic gender bias. Sex Roles, 44, 493–512.

Rudman, L. A. (2004). Sources of implicit attitudes. Current Directions in

Psychological Science, 13, 80–83.

Seager, M., Farrell, W. & Barry, J.A. (2016). The Male Gender Empathy Gap: Time for psychology to take action. New Male Studies5(2), 6-16.

About the author

Dr John Barry is a psychologist researching Male Psychology

3 thoughts on “Male identity: an island no man wants to visit

  1. Reply
    Dave DuBay - March 6, 2017

    That’s really interesting. One question is: Is this lack of male ingroup bias cross-cultural?

    And what role does male disposability play?

    In the book “Man Interrupted,” Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe quote a soldier’s description of the male gender role: “Men’s friendships among peers in competitive atmospheres are based on what abilities they bring to the group; remembering that their life is devalued but their skillsets are not. Showing concern means that you question their ability.”

  2. Reply
    John Barry - March 6, 2017

    Hi Dave. Thanks for your input. That’s a very interesting question regarding how generalisable the research findings are. I would predict that – based on evolutionary pressures (see below) – you would find weak ingroup favouritism in male identity across cultures, though this might be moderated by how individualistic vs collectivist the culture is. The reason I would predict this relates to your second question: it makes sense in evolutionary terms that men are more expendable than women. To put it crudely, a population can thrive with one man and 100 women, but might die off with one woman and 100 men. We make the case in a less crude way here

  3. Reply
    Dave DuBay - March 7, 2017

    Thanks for the response and the article

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