India’s obsession with Caste-BRIG

Indians have a curious tendency. Whenever any Indian gains global recognition, we tend to check out the caste or city to which the Indian belongs to! And then, this knowledge goes viral on social media. India might have changed a lot over the years, but caste continues to dominate our society. Why is this so?


Basking in reflected glory – The reasons we love our favourite team

As I decided to delve deeper into this caste obsession, I came across this weird connection between people who still care about the caste system and football fans who wear team jerseys! Let me explain in detail.

I discovered that people tend to attach a lot of their self-image by associating themselves to a success story or successful person. This is called Basking in Reflected Glory (BiRG). The concept is hardwired into us without us being aware, and we can see it play out in many facets.

Think of the football fan who always wears the team jersey when his favourite team is playing a match. The fan has no role in making the team win or lose, but he wears the jersey with pride and feels that doing so contributes to the team’s win! This basking in reflected glory makes one feel good and gives a sense of pride.

That sense of pride is showcased in many ways. For example, we publicly proclaim that our team is the best team by talking about the team with friends or wearing team badges. Haven’t you seen fans of the successful team go on a riot on the streets of many a European city when their team wins? Reflected glory is often considered a celebration of personal success!

The BiRG phenomenon helps people in improving their own self-esteem. This is the same reflective pride we see when you hear people bragging about knowing someone successful. Remember when your friends talked about a famous personality being from the same school or college as theirs? Now that you see that the BiRG phenomenon can extend to anything that correlates with success, why can’t it be connected to caste as well?

Caste – A powerful definition of who we are

Despite the fact that caste is viewed with a negative perception, it is still the way things get done in India.

Our elections and politics are based on caste equations. Given its importance, it’s no surprise that people like to use it as a common thread to bask in reflected glory on the basis of caste. Thus, it should be not a big surprise that we see a big spike in searches for a successful person’s caste when he/she comes to the limelight all of a sudden!

PS: This post is part of a series of posts, which I am writing after reading the book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert B. Cialdini. The first article in that series is The Power of Reciprocity

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