Why We Pledge Fraternities

Posted: June 11, 2012 in Other
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I’ll admit it, I’ve never understood the appeal of Greek Life. Brotherhood is nice, but after being forced to serve as a footstool for a week after spending your afternoons cleaning the floors with your own toothbrush, how much brotherly affection can you still hold for your new-found siblings? It turns out that the harsh process of pledging is one of the factors that create satisfaction with membership in a Greek family.

To be fair, I get my information on fraternities from 90s sitcoms.

It comes down to the need to justify our actions to ourselves. Human beings like to believe that we are rational creatures. We want to think that we perceive our situations realistically, but often, our realities are distorted by our need to believe that we have acted in an intelligent manner. And because we want to see ourselves as models of logical behavior, we can alter our impression of a situation after the fact to make it suit the level of effort we undertook to achieve it. The more work we put into something, the higher we perceive the value we gain from it.

This man probably loves his job.

This increased perception of value holds true for group membership. In a series of laboratory experiments, researchers simulated a chance for participants to join a discussion group. They received entrance into the group after going through an embarrassing or painful process, similar to hazing. The severity of the entrance process was manipulated so that some participants received a more unpleasant selection process than others. In the groups with the harsher entrance procedures, the appeal of the group was greater than with the participants who experienced the less embarrassing process, even though researchers made sure that the promised discussion was as boring as possible. The participants who rated their membership in the group as worthwhile were the participants who had put the most effort into attaining it.

I guess this means hard work really is its own reward. Your father was right all along.


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