Social Identity Theory and its Impact on People’s Reactions to Petrol Queue Jumping

This study aimed to investigate whether the social identity theory applies when it comes to peoples’ reactions to petrol queue jumping. It intended to ascertain whether participants demonstrated more reaction to those who jump queues, outside their own in-group (those who drive luxurious cars as opposed to non-luxurious car drivers). This study was influenced by a similar experiment conducted by Helweg-Larsen & LoMonaco (2008) about queuing among U2 fans and their reactions to queue jumping. The experiment involved 49 participants who indicated they didn’t drive a luxury car, in a Melbourne metropolitan petrol queue, 26 of whom were males, aged 18-58 years (M =33:82; SD = 11.26), in addition to this there were 23 females, aged 18-61 years (M =33.11; SD = 11.26). A questionnaire was utilized which included basic information as well as strength of identification with other drivers. Assessment of how upset queue jumping made them feel on a scale of 1-7 was also utilised.

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The results demonstrated that there was a reasonably high reaction rate, with statistically significantly results that proved drivers have a high level of social identification amongst other drivers within the same social class. The hypothesis that those who operate a non-luxurious vehicle will appear more distressed about queue jumping, when it is by someone driving a car of luxury as opposed to someone who is driving a car that is considered non-luxurious was supported. This helps support the existence of the social identity theory although the implications of this are that perhaps a broader definition of what ‘reaction’ to queue jumping needs to be developed, as well as using a larger sample size of people from several states or perhaps even countries.

Social Identity Theory and its Impact on People’s Reactions to Petrol Queue Jumping

It’s normal for most people to have a fundamental curiosity for finding out the causes of and therefore finding explanations for the behaviours demonstrated by humans. It is via this inquisition that queue jumping is explored, it is recognised as a human behaviour that most people will have to deal with in their everyday lives. It is generally known as the social phenomena where another person skips the line and rather then waiting at the end of a queue. Queue jumping, as it is commonly known, has been researched in various cases including research within the animal community. Particularly in a study about wasps, which demonstrated that queue jumping may be seen as a rule for inheriting dominance (Bridge & Field, 2007). This is not the sole study in regards to queue jumping, Milgram et al (1986) investigated the responses to queue jumping by assigning intruders to wait in queues (either single or multiple confederates) and they found that if there were more than one intruder it would provoke more of a reaction amongst the participants.

They were also able to deduce from this study that those who preceded the intruders in the line felt more distaste for the queue jumpers as opposed to those in front of the queue jumpers (Milgram et al, 1986). This study demonstrates the social implications that queue jumping can have on an individual and the reason that so much weight has been assigned to the importance of researching queue jumping is because through this human interest, social theories, such as the “Social Identity Theory” have taken place. Social Identity Theory is a theory based on group membership as well as intergroup interactions that are based on self-categorisation, social comparison and the structure of a shared self-definition in terms of ingroup-defining properties (Vaughan & Hogg, 2011). There are two dynamics to social identity that are attributing causality for behaviours, these include: social identity, which is the definition of self in terms of group membership as well as personal identity, which is when one defines self in terms of personal relationships and traits (Vaughan & Hogg, 2011).

The main component to the social identity theory is the in-group/out-group differentiation which “is an inevitable characteristic of social life, and many social psychologists are still very busy with the issue of intergroup differentiation” (Taşdemir, 2011). This study is relatable to other research particularly one executed by Thoitis & Virshup (1997) in which groups of people were classified into “me’s and “we’s” and this is a clear representation for in-groups and out-groups. They discussed the notion that there is a sense of obligation and protection of one’s own ingroup as they are willing to empathise with those perceived to be similar to the individual as oppose to the “we’s” who were seen as dissimilar to the individual (Thoitis & Virshup, 1997). In terms of human behaviour, social identity theory and queue jumping can be closely interrelated as queue jumping has been was investigated by Helweg-Larsen & LoMonaco (2008). In this study U2 fans where given a questionnaire whilst waiting in an overnight line to obtain floor spots at his concert the following day.

The purpose was to reflect on their reactions to line-intrusion and the results showed that the queue is a social system and line intrusion was most upsetting to fans with a greater the commitment; the more dedicated the fan the more upset they were by queue jumping (Helweg-Larsen & LoMonaco, 2008). In regards to queue jumping, there is much curiosity as to whether the social identity theory can be proven but little research. It is important to study reactions to queue jumping simply because of the social implications that are derived from this, as understanding how people function within a social in-group and how they react to an out-group can be vital. Through this knowledge one may able to apply this to discover solutions to problems such as peak hour traffic and how to best overcome this problem and avoid road rage and car-crashes. With that in mind the study below aims to investigate whether social identity affects how upset people feel about jumping a queue in order to purchase petrol. It is predicted in this study that those who operate a non-luxurious vehicle will appear more distressed about line intrusion, when it is by someone driving a luxury car rather that a non-luxury vehicle. This prediction is based on the social identity, assuming that the social identity theory can be demonstrated.

This study involved 49 participants who indicated they didn’t drive a luxury car, in a Melbourne metropolitan petrol queue, 26 of whom were males, aged 18-58 years (M =33:82; SD = 11.26), in addition to this there were 23 females, aged 18-61 years (M =33.11; SD = 11.26).

The scheme utilised in this study was a one-way between-factor design. In relation to queue jumping it compared participants reactions from (LUXURY) whether the queue jumper drove a luxury car in which 24 where allocated and (NON-LUXURY) whether the queue jumper drove a non-luxury car in which 25 participants were allocated. As well as the main dependant variable being the measure of how distressed people felt about the queue jumping.

A questionnaire including background information (such as age; gender; number of years driving; type of car driven; how long they had been waiting in the petrol queue; whether they had waited in petrol queues before; whether they had ever witnessed queue jumping and when; and how much they usually paid for petrol) was employed. The questionnaire also evaluated their strength of recognition with drivers of non-luxury cars using Brown, Condor, Mathews, Wade and Williams’ (1986) 10-item measure of social identification (1 =strongly disagree; 7 =strongly agree). A total maximum score of 70 was possible on this measure. The questionnaire also implemented four items that each measured how distressed queue jumping (overall) made them feel (1=not at all upset, to 7=extremely upset). These items were revised versions of questions included in Helweg-Larsen and Lomonaco (2008) and a single measure/index (called “REACTION”) was calculated by summing the answers to these four items; with higher figures indicating that people were more distressed by the queue jumping. A total maximum score of 28 was possible on this form of measurement.

Ethics approval was first obtained from Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee. Participants were then selected in the Melbourne metropolitan region petrol station where queuing for reduction of petrol prices happened frequently. In the first occurrence, four drivers were employed and were requested by the experimenter to act as experimental stooges. Two of these drivers were required to drive a luxury car: 1. a Maserati GranCabrio Sport; and 2. a 2012 model Porsche 911. One of these (luxury car) drivers was asked to take up a place in a petrol queue and allow queue jumping to happen, while the remaining driver was expected to jump the queue to the place immediately preceding to that driver’s location in the queue. The other two drivers were asked to drive a non-luxury car: a Ford Fiesta or a Holden Astra.

One of these (non-luxury car) drivers was also required to take up a place in the petrol queue and to allow queue jumping to happen, while the other driver was asked to hop the queue in the place immediately preceding that driver’s place in the queue. This meant that other people in the queue were open to the elements of queue jumping, that was being put up with, either among luxury car drivers or among non-luxury car drivers. The two queue jumping incidents were staged to take place at a distance of 10 cars from the petrol pumps, within the same day but separated by two hours in time (with queues stretching for numerous blocks). No other queue jumping, besides those associated with the current study, was observed to have taken place. Each of the participants in the queue behind the place where the queue jumping occurred was approached, after the incident, by one of four experimental research assistants and they were then asked to answer a questionnaire about queuing for petrol. At the conclusion of the study, all participants were debriefed and notified that they were permitted to contact the experimenter to gain access to results.

Table 1
Mean and Standard Reaction to Queue Jumping of Luxury and Non-Luxury cars N Mean Standard Deviation LUXURY 2425.712.10

NON-LUXURY 25 23.60 2.14 TOTAL 49 24.63 2.35
The results from Table 1 illustrate that the total Mean was 24.63, where the maximum response possible was 28 for REACTION (as well as a maximum of 70 on the social identity scale) and the total Standard Deviation being 2.35. This indicates that the scores were relatively high in regards to the total amount possible. Using SPPS version20, a one-way between variable factor, ANOVA was carried out on the dependant variable of REACTION. Reaction was perceived bigger when the queue jumping was done by a luxury car driver (M=25.70; SD=2.09) as opposed to when it was by a non-luxury car driver (M=23.60; SD=2.14);(F(1, 48)=12.12;p

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