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In this step, you will get to understand the concept of socialisation.
Four paper cut-out persons
© Andrew Moca via Unsplash

What do we mean by socialisation? In this text, we explain how the socialisation process works and why it is important to be aware of it.

Humans are social beings, we are all part of different social groups, not only privately, but also at work. For instance, you work together with other researchers, with PhD students, with colleagues. This is your social context. We are often not aware of it, but our social context has a lot of influence on us. We are being influenced by others and we influence others.

Characteristics of your social context

Within each social context, different structures, relationships and interdependencies exist. Each group has its own historical background, with its own norms, values and beliefs, which are mutually shared. When this information of the group is visible, for example because it is written down, we speak of explicit information. By explicit we mean the concrete rules and regulations that you will find on a website or in the regulations, for example your formal job description. However, much of the information in a group is not explicit, but implicit. Implicit refers to information that is not verbalised or written down, but that you just seem to “know”. It is clear to everyone ‘this is how things are here, this is our normal’.

Implicit social learning

You will learn implicit information from others through interacting with them. This process is called socialisation. In this process you learn how to behave within a group and what the habits and customs are. Via socialisation you learn the values, norms, customs and other characteristics of the group. Through interaction with others and observations, you learn what is normal here and what is expected of you. You see what others do, such as how they dress and behave, and gradually adopt this behavior. This often happens very unconsciously. In fact, often the origin of certain behavior is no longer even known. Maybe you can recall this process when you first entered a new job and became part of a new group. At first you do not know what is normal or how to behave, but after a while it all begins to feel very natural. So-called role models, individuals in a social context who serve as examples and sources of inspiration, help you in this socialisation process.

Benefits and challenges

The shared implicit and explicit knowledge of a social environment is very useful. It ensures efficiency and predictability and makes sure you understand each other well. This is also necessary for good cooperation. After all, you all know how to behave and you don’t have to discuss everything over and over again. All this contributes significantly to a sense of belonging.

Challenges arise, for example, when we work together with people from different social contexts, because they are socialised differently. As a result, they may have different norms, values and habits. You both have a different ‘normal’ and maybe that’s why you don’t understand each other well or misunderstandings arise. Another challenge is that you can also identify too much with the group, which causes you to lose a feeling of autonomy. Because socialisation processes are so unconscious and implicit, it is important to stay alert to see if what is being transferred to you is also what suits you. It may be that there are certain expectations or values within your context that do not directly suit you as a person. For instance, maybe you have become more competitive in your current job than you were in earlier working environments.

It is normal to be influenced by a group and it may even be tempting to adapt to what everyone else is doing, but it is also important for your own well-being and functioning to retain your individuality and freedom of choice. In this way you maintain a healthy balance between connecting with your environment on the one hand and being your unique self on the other. For this, becoming aware of your own socialisation and how you socialise others (you as role model) is an important aspect of being a PhD supervisor.


© University of Groningen
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