A natural human tendency is to form groups to fulfill our social needs, navigate a world full of obstacles and threats, and also provide us with a sense of identity and self-esteem. The latest season of CBS’s Big Brother, set to premier this Thursday, July 9, will exploit this innate proclivity. The show puts a dozen willing wannabes in a house under surveillance for approximately three months. Once a week the contestants vote to evict one member of the household until only two remain, when the formerly evicted contestants vote for a winner who will receive $500,000. This season the show will split the houseguests into three age-old high school cliques: “popular,” “athletes,” and “brains.”
Cliques create a unique experience of power and dominance with highly specific intra-group stratification and provide a sense of identity and purpose for members (Adler & Adler, 2007). They have a strict code of membership (e.g., what one wears, how one acts) and are exclusive (e.g., members are not free to socialize with outsiders, initiation to the group is difficult to obtain). The show’s format already ensures that contestants form alliances in order to win and labeling these groups from the outset that already have stereotypes and expectancies associated with them only accelerates a process that would have occurred anyway with or without the cameras. While we’d all like to believe that cliques exist only in the cafeteria or on the playground they can be found in nearly any place where human beings interact.
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