Asymmetrical Social Mach Bands: Exaggeration of Social Identities on the More Esteemed Side of Group Borders

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Description: Perceptual processes generally enhance borders, because of their high information value. Mach bands are an example in vision. In the social world, with either individuals or groups as “units”, borders are also of special significance; one side of the border is generally more esteemed or valued. We claim that entities (individuals, groups) that are just “over” the border on the positive side tend to exaggerate their “membership” on the positive side (asymmetrical social Mach bands). We demonstrate this by showing that (1) Master’s degrees universities use the word “University” to describe themselves more than major graduate universities; (2) small international airports use the word “international” to describe themselves more than major airports; and (3) University of Pennsylvania students, affiliated with a “marginal” Ivy League school, use the word “Ivy” to describe their school more than Harvard students.

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