What is patriotism? What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism? Whether it be a sport event or a political issue we always stand with the country we belong to. This affiliation is so strong that people are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. What is this feeling of patriotism and how does it evolve? What it means to be patriotic? Let’s analyze what patriotism is from social psychological perspective.

Patriotism and Nationalism difference

Patriotism is an “attachment to country characterized by critical loyalty”. Whereas; nationalism is “a perception of national superiority and an orientation towards national dominance”. Patriotism is the attachment or love for the country whereas, nationalism is the feeling of superiority or dominance based on the perception that one country is superior to another.

Psychology of patriotism and nationalism

In-Group Loyalty

Both patriotism and nationalism are based on group loyalty in which one is loyal to the group whom he belong. According to psychologist Professor Guetzkow, “Groups in general are organized to meet human needs, their structures and processes are in part molded by these needs”. These group loyalties are based on the fulfillment of certain economic, sociocultural and political needs such as sense of security and feeling of belongingness and pride. The primary psychological need which is the major determinant of group loyalty is need for attachment or need for affiliation which in turn transforms into patriotism and nationalism. The need for attachment can take different forms and can be understood in the form of sub needs such as:

Affective involvement

Ego involvement

Goal involvement

Normative involvement

Affective involvement

It is the affective, emotional and sentimental attachment to the group. Affective involvement fulfills the basic psychological need for attachment.

Ego involvement

Through ego involvement individuals get a sense of identity, self-esteem and status being part of the group. Ego involvement fulfills the basic psychological need for power.

Goal involvement

Being part of the group individuals accomplish things and solve problems which fulfills their basic psychological need for achievement.

Normative involvement

Individuals internalize the norms and role expectations of the group through normative involvement.

Inter-Group Conflict

After the fulfillment of these basic psychological needs by being a part of group why do individuals’ develop feelings of conflict or even hatred for other groups, tribes or nations? This could be due to in-group bias and collective images.

In Group bias

One reason to develop negative feelings towards another group could be due to in-group bias. In group bias is the tendency of people to prefer their group over others on the basis of just being part of that group. Psychological experiments have shown that merely telling the people that they belong to certain group elicit favorable attitudes and feelings for that group even if they haven’t met any other member of the group. This leads them to have competitive and hostile feelings towards other groups.

Collective Images

Apart from having in-group bias individuals tend to make images of their group in terms of group norms and values. These individual images become stereotypes when they are shared within group. These images have descriptive and evaluative components. Descriptive component includes the political or economic system of the group or the social attributes possessed by group members whereas; evaluative component concerns description of people as kind, arrogant, talkative and competitive.  These collective images and stereotypes can also contribute to inter-group conflict.

Patriotism and Nationalism: Causes

It is due to the fulfillment of basic psychological needs of:

  • Attachment
  • Power
  • Achievement

This causes inter-group conflict due to:

  • In-group bias
  • Collective images

Patriotism and Nationalism: Consequences

Patriotism is associated with:

  • Cooperativeness
  • Positive feelings

Nationalism is associated with:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Competitiveness
  • Lack of compassion
  • Lack of cooperativeness
  • Feeling of superiority over others