Shared Targets and Shared Bad Identifications

Suitable targets for externalization…are shared by the children of a given group. The psychological meanings attached to them make them serve as a foundation of intergroup relationships. Psychologically speaking, the “reservoirs” or group-specific externalizations tie children together; at this point in their development, it is these “suitable targets” that bridge the distance between individual and group psychology.

-Vamik Volkan, “The Need to Have Enemies and Allies”


Introduction by Kaley Pillinger

Shared Targets are the common externalization of one experience or opinion onto an object–the projection by multiple members of one group of Thing 1 onto Thing 2. The joint associations are intended to create a bond between members of a large group or to physicalize a group fear or insecurity. Shared Targets are most easily seen in intergenerational stereotypes, but the psychological basis of the theory is exhibited often in high school cliques’ bonding against one unfavored peer.

Shared Bad Identifications is the negative subset of Shared Targets, i.e. the negative externalization of common emotions.



Man to Man

In an essay inspired by her uncle’s story, Proof Schuber Reed examines the way that discomfort with our own identities can inspire us to eschew that identity in any way possible–including by degrading it and teasing others for expressing it.

On Fear

Safia Karasick-Southey writes about how intergenerational anxiety of persecution has led members of her family to stereotype members of ethnic groups historically antagonistic to hers.

Being the Target

Jalen Guichardo explores what it’s like to be the target of Shared Bad Identifications. He writes about how being Hispanic has affected the way strangers interact with him.

America’s War with Lady Liberty

Sophie Cooper discusses the use of Shared Bad Identifications in political discourse during the 2016 presidential elections.