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As an outsider is called people or groups of people who have a social community indeed belong to, but not fully in this community integrated are. The concept of the outsider is the subject of sociological , psychological and cultural studies.

Sociological Approaches


Wherever there are communities with social norms and values, they also include an (often implicit) regulation for norm breakers and, furthermore, a regulation which social actors do not even fall under, so that one tries to keep a great social distance from them. The criteria according to which these “outsiders” are excluded due to deviant behavior vary widely; large groups can such as in a are classified by power relations in this category, caste society , the pariahs . In a way that is very noticeable for those affected, but otherwise inconspicuous, this social process of distancing is weaker or more ubiquitous as an exclusion .

When drawing the boundaries, society initially orientates itself towards the norm, the average, the quantity, the mass , the most, the cultural, social and political mainstream , and beyond that towards the norm in the sense of the standardized , the usual, the rule. What lies outside the boundaries can be subsumed as marginality, marginality, the secondary, the inessential, that which does not belong to the center, the otherness, the excluded, the neglected, the sidelined, the cranky remote, the most adventurous outsider , in the most romantic sense, the peripheral, that which cannot be firmly assigned to an area, the free. Outsiders and marginality can also mean freedom in the positive (French: la marge , "the space", Latin margo , "the limit"), a limit that can be drawn and crossed: the protective, the secure, but also the That which is to be protected, the one to be secured, that is to say the exclusive, the repellent - and depending on the point of view also the exclusive, the elitist, the prominent, the special or the wrongly misunderstood.

Scope of terms

Outsiders are people (sociologically: " actors ") or social groups (sociologically "collective actors"),

  • who stand outside social groups;
  • who are excluded or excluded from another group due to different norms;
  • who are collectively classified as “unsympathetic” by a group and thus psychologically stigmatized;
  • who turn out to be non-experts or “uninitiated” in a certain area or feel themselves to be such;
  • who for various reasons do not want to integrate into a community or who respond to exclusion that has already taken place with self-exclusion.

Psychological approaches

The psychologist Daniel Goleman attributes involuntary outsider behavior in children mainly to a lack of emotional and social competence . Shy, timid and fearful children as well as aggressive children who were prone to outbursts and who prematurely interpreted signals from their environment as an expression of hostility are particularly affected. Beyond such peculiarities of the individual temperament , the children are “socially unmusical”, whose “social awkwardness” leads to others feeling uncomfortable. They do not understand emotional signals correctly and are not seen by their peers as children to have fun with.

According to Parker and Asher, if this situation persists, the forced or voluntary isolation of the child will mean that opportunities for further social learning will be missed. The outsider could thus continue into adulthood and lead to partnership and other problems there. As early as 1973, psychologist Emory L. Cowen ( University of Rochester ) pointed out that the popularity of a child in third grade is a powerful predictor of the mental health that the same person would have by the age of 18.


There are many reasons for a person to be marginalized and thus to form an outsider. For example, if a child or adolescent does not show interest in places where branded clothing is generally considered desirable, this often makes them an outsider. An appearance that deviates from the respective “norm” or the ideal of beauty can also lead to an outsider, as can shyness, fearfulness or a lack of aggressive behavior.

A distinction is made, among other things, between “aggressive-antisocial” and “introverted-shy” outsiders, whereby both distinguishing features can also be combined in one person. Since outsiders are often humiliated by other students in school, this can lead to depressive states in the victims and, in extreme cases, to suicide (see Bullying in School ).

A long-term study by Stockholm University, which followed the development of over 14,000 students born in 1953 from 1966 to 2003, showed an increased susceptibility to physical and mental illnesses as well as behavioral problems in later life of the socially isolated adolescents.

The psychologist Steven Asher ( University of Illinois ) had success in 1987 with a method to better integrate unpopular children into their class groups by training social skills. Stephen Nowicki ( Emory University ) successfully carried out a similar project two years later .

Literature and media

In the Fiction outsiders are a popular subject (see. Eg. As Wilhelm Raabe " Tubby ").

See also

The terms nerd , weirdo or owl are occasionally used as synonyms for outsiders .


Individual evidence

  1. See Wolfgang Ayaß : "Vagabonds, hikers, homeless and non-sedentary". A brief history of the concept of help for the homeless. In: Archives for Science and Practice of Social Work. 43, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 90-102.
  2. ^ Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ . 1st edition. Bantam, New York 1995, ISBN 0-553-09503-X , pp. 249-251 . ; Kenneth Dodge, Esther Feldman: Social Cognition and Sociometric Status. In: Steven Asher, John Coie (Eds.): Peer Rejection in Childhood. Cambridge University Press, New York 1990.
  3. Jeffrey Parker, Steven Asher: Friendship Adjustment, Group Acceptance and Social Dissatisfaction in Childhood. Conference paper. American Educational Research Association, Boston 1990.
  4. ^ Emory L. Cowen: Long-Term Follow-Up of Early Detected Vulnerable Children. In: Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology. Volume 41, 1973.
  5. Outsiders get sick more often later. In: Spiegel Online. September 29, 2009.
  6. ^ Steven Asher, Gladys Williams: Helping Children Without Friends in Home and School Contexts. In: Children's Social Development: Informations for Parents and Teachers. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Champaign 1987.
  7. Stephen Nowicki: A Remediation Procedure for Nonverbal Processing Deficits. unpublished manuscript. Duke University, 1989.

Web links

Wiktionary: Outsiders  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations