Arts and Culture / Society and Politics

Why Hazing Still Exists

By Janina Lim|

Hazing is defined in various ways. Some find it inappropriate and barbaric. Some deem such practice as the best rites for initiation. However, hazing has exposed many of its pledges to injurious conditions, even to death, thus, the efforts of society in the prevention of it. ‘No hazing’ advocates’ have been heard. Legal acts have been taken into effect. However, the law could not outright put a halt to this practice. Here are just four of the many other societal and psychological reasons why hazing continues to creep in our society.


The earliest form of hazing has been recorded since the establishment of Plato’s Academy in 397 B.C. According to Nuwer in his Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing and Binge Drinking, unruly young men played coarse jokes on citizens and the ones being hazed when they get in their way. It was recorded in the Middle Ages (1400’s) in Europe that “the underlying idea (behind hazing) … was that the newcomer to the university was an untutored, uncivilized man, who had first to be polished before he could become a regular member of the university; before he could taste the sweets of a student’s life he should suffer hardships.”

In addition to pennalism such acts as fagging– which Nuwer defined as ‘the right exercised by the older boy to make the younger do what he likes and what the younger one generally dislikes’– flourished in universities such as in Cambridge and Oxford. Such subtle acts of hazing were aimed to emphasize the status and rank between the older students from the younger ones. And so the younger students learned from it the virtue of humility by serving the upperclassmen.

Survival of the fittest

After reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Herbert Spencer wrote the Principles of Biology in 1864 where it was his first to use the phrase, ‘survival of the fittest.’ The phrase served to give an explanation on the ways of Darwin’s natural selection or the preservation of the best races.

In terms of hazing, whosoever does not meet up to the standards of the fraternity belong to the weak groups. However, most fraternities today focus solely on their establishment as an organization composed of members with exceptional physical strength, thus, the initiation involving paddling and binge drinking.

Social identity theory

Formulated originally by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970’s-80’s, the social identity theory proposes that individuals tend to identify themselves based on the identity of a group. Hence in order for an individual to esteem himself more, he categorizes the group to which he belongs as the ‘in’ group, often exaggerating the positive side of his team. On the other hand, he focuses on the negative side of the other group, he refer to as ‘out’ groups, which for doing so would increase his regard for his group and for his own self.

In the Philippines, it is quite alarming to learn of someone as belonging to a fraternity; as many organizations are renowned for their history of notoriety not just for their initiation rights but for their immoral habits of excessive binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and sometimes, drug intake. However, these fraternities still seem attractive to many despite the past criminal cases many of these fraternities have gotten involved. This idea creates dissonance between what is believed and what is actually being witnessed.

Cognitive dissonance theory

The cognitive dissonance theory (1957) first examined by American psychologist, Leon Festinger. The theory suggests that individuals tend to strive for the consistency of beliefs, values, and thoughts despite an experience that proved the fallacy of his held beliefs, values, or thoughts. In order to have a more expansive knowledge on the relations between hazing and the cognitive dissonance theory, here are two paradigms of the theory:

Effort justification paradigm

In a study entitled “The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group,” researchers Elliott Aronson and Judson Mills discovered that individuals tend to give more value to things they attained by means of extreme efforts rather than individuals who gained the same things with minimal struggle. The researchers, however, considered an individual’s willingness to go through all kinds of obnoxious activities based on his level of desire to be a member of a particular organization. No matter how much a group is perceived as desirable to a person, the impact of going through a severe initiation can affect the person’s cognition towards the group. This cognition tends to bring dissonance between what the person actually witnessed as a pledge and his confidence of his initial beliefs about the group. If the person survives the initiation, the impact is either his attraction to the group be exaggerated, solely focusing on the groups’ positive aspects and minimizing the negative from view, or he would find the initiation not much as bad as he thought it would in order that his beliefs still be valid at least in his own way.

Belief disconfirmation paradigm

Festinger began investigation involving a cult that believed the coming of the UFO of which event will be signaled by a great flood obliterating the face of the earth. When the prediction did not occur at the appointed time, some members accepted that they were being ridiculous. On the other hand, the fervent believers of the flood (fervent to the extent that they gave up their homes and jobs to be of utmost assistance to the cult in preparing for the flood) gave a different interpretation to the failure of the prediction—because they were faithful to the cult, the aliens gave the earth another chance to be kept from plunging into the waters of eternal destruction. In this case, the gravity of the misconception to the believers is not much of an impact as long as there remain co-believers to stand with him in his wrongly believed grounds.

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