This blog series has brought us to the following problem. According to studies on the behavioural immune system (BHS), the presence of the coronavirus could lead to greater conformity among Quebecers combined with a greater aversion for deviation from the norm. Consequently, this could exacerbate the exclusion of certain already marginalized communities and put them at even greater risk for certain types of violence, including bullying among children. That said, how can we prevent it from happening and avoid these communities suffering further from their exclusion? The answer is simple, but its application complex: inclusion.

Complexity of inclusion

The first difficulty with inclusion is that exclusion sometimes be legitimate. To function properly, a group must adopt inclusion and exclusion criteria which ensure that members cooperate towards a common objective (Abraham & al., 2014; Carron & al., 2012; Tomasello, 2016). For example, to be part of a sports team, you must work to help your team. If you work to help the opposing team, it is legitimate for your team to want to exclude you. Therefore, inclusion is not always legitimate.

The second difficulty with inclusion comes from the fact that exclusion is often irrational. In this sense, it is based on our feelings rather than our reasoning. That was the point of all these blogs, which were meant to show that the presence of COVID-19 could lead to feelings of aversion which influence our solidarity and avoidance behaviours. To better understand this phenomenon, let’s look at pregnant women. Did you know that women become more xenophobic and ethnocentric during their first trimester of pregnancy? According to Navarrete & al. (2007), the first trimester is characterized by a sharp reduction in the behavioural immunity system, making them much more easily disgusted. This also explains their frequent nausea. This research showed that this feeling of disgust is also transposed toward foreigners, making them more xenophobic, but also four times more ethnocentric. However, as their pregnancy advances, they become less xenophobic and ethnocentric, and return to their normal level at the end of their pregnancy (Navarrete & al., 2007). We must therefore take into account the strong unconscious and visceral side of exclusion when we consider inclusion (Aarøe & al., 2017; Kiss & al., 2020; Navarrete & al., 2007; Vartanian & al., 2016). It is very difficult to reason with a person who is disgusted, just like it is very difficult to reason with someone who is scared or enraged, at least until their emotional state becomes more tempered and they become more reasonable (Haidt & al., 2000).

For an emotional and legitimate inclusion

First, you have to take care of the emotional side. Like anger management, aversion management starts with becoming aware of the aversion (Kugler & al., 2019; Liu & al., 2015). In the study by Kugler & al. (2019), the participants had to play a confidence game after having watched a disgusting video. They observed that the more participant was disgusted, the less he trusted others. However, when they became aware of the origin of their disgust, the effects of the video disappeared completely (Kugler & al., 2019), thus demonstrating that we must first be aware of what controls us to control ourselves.

Afterwards, it is certain that empathy can play a role as has been demonstrated on multiple occasions in bullying (Nickerson & al., 2015; Vartanian & al., 2016). Understanding and feeling what the other person is living through exclusion can encourage inclusion. However, it seems that we don’t sympathize with anyone and that the people for whom we feel an aversion are among those for whom we have less sympathy (Sherman & al., 2011).  Sympathy is therefore good, but you have to feel it!

In the end, it appears that one of the best ways to ensure a better inclusion and a legitimate inclusion consists in redefining a new “us” including the marginalized communities (Lukianoff & al., 2018; Putnam, 2007; Reicher & al., 2016). We therefore have to find a common social identity. Through this new social identity, others become more familiar, which mitigates our feeling of aversion (Hult Khazaie & al., 2019; Reicher & al., 2016) and makes us more inclined to trust others, cooperate, but also come to their help if needed (Haslam & al.,2011; Putnam, 2007; Levine & al., 2005). Fortunately for us, in sports, it is rather easy to find a common identity. Communion through identification with the team thanks to the uniform, the adoption of team values and goals, cooperation rather than competition between teammates, the adoption of a leadership based on the team’s needs, in addition to sharing victories and defeats can become a powerful engine of cohesion and inclusion (Carron & al., 2012; Levine & al., 2005).

That is what we propose in our Take action! Counter bullying in sports program and, more specifically, in our Teaming up to develop cohesion tool. Also, keep updated on our Cohaesio approach whose goal is to intervene deeper in the team dynamic to develop and optimize cohesion and inclusion by targeting leadership structures.

Alexandre Baril

Project Manager – Take action! Counter bullying in sports



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Understanding and feeling what the other person is living through exclusion can encourage inclusion.