Permeability of group boundaries: Development of the concept and a scale

Bibiana M. Armenta Gutiérrez, Katherine Stroebe, Susanne Scheibe, Nico W. Van Yperen, Alwin Stegeman, Thomas Postmes

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12 Citations (Scopus)


The perceived possibility of movement between groups, referred to as permeability of group boundaries, is considered a key factor in explaining intergroup relations. However, so far, permeability has been conceptualized in different ways and there exists no validated measure. Integrating different conceptualizations, we developed a scale distinguishing membership permeability (e.g., a person changing from one sport team to another) versus status permeability (e.g., a person acquiring a higher social status). Scale validation occurred across samples representing five lower status groups (older adults, women, obese, lower educated, ethnic minorities). Our scale was related to central indicators of intergroup relations such as self-reported intergroup attitudes (e.g., identification) and endorsement of behavioral strategies (individual mobility, collective action). Moreover, it distinguished permeability characteristics of different types of social groups. The scale provides a novel theoretical conceptualization of permeability and can be used to examine levels and correlates of permeability perceptions across social groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-433
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2017


  • permeability of group boundaries
  • social mobility
  • social change
  • group identification
  • categorization of social groups

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