How Group Members Appraise Collective History: Appraisal Dimensions of Collective History and Their Role in In-Group Engagement


  • Damilola Makanju
  • Andrew G. Livingstone
  • Joseph Sweetman


Group members’ appraisals of their in-group’s collective history have been found to shape their engagement with the in-group and its collective goals. We add to this research by examining the complexity and dimensionality of how group members appraise collective history, and how different forms of appraisals relate to different forms of in-group engagement. We do so by (1) outlining four key dimensions – richness, clarity, valence and subjective importance – of how an in-group’s collective history can be appraised, and (2) examining how these appraisal dimensions relate to group members’ engagement with the in-group. Focussing on the African in-group category, we tested these ideas using a qualitative, essay writing approach. Analysis of responses (N = 33) indicated varied use of each of these dimensions of collective history appraisal, and that they relate to in-group engagement in differing ways. Two specific rhetorical strategies were identified: deploying the in-group’s history as a contrast; and deploying the in-group’s history as an inspiration. When collective history was appraised as rich, complex, negatively-valenced and unimportant, it was characterised as something from which the in-group should break away (history-as-contrast). Conversely, when collective history was appraised as rich, complex, positively-valenced and important, history was characterised as something to be used as a resource for the in-group (history-as-inspiration). Our findings build a fuller and more nuanced picture of how collective history shapes in-group engagement in a non-western setting.