The Psychology of Ragging: A Multi-level Conceptualisation of Ragging in Institutions.

Dr Majeed Khader, Ms  Charmaine Lee Siew Ling

The Psychology of Ragging: A Multi-level Conceptualisation of Ragging in Institutions  In the context of safety and security where officers operate under high stakes and time pressure, strong trust between team members is often considered requisite for optimal coordination and performance. It is hence unsurprising that the incidence of ragging – activities aimed at fostering unique group identity and assimilation without legitimate operational function – are high in such institutions (Finkel, 2002). Due to the risk of physical and psychological harm, and even death, it is crucial to understand ragging so that it can be detected and replaced with safer alternatives. Hence, a review of the academic literature on ragging and hazing, and anti-ragging best practices from international military agencies was conducted. Additionally, past and incumbent Home Team officers and organisational anti-ragging materials were analysed.  Following from the research, the closely-related concepts of hazing, ragging and bullying are distinguished. The presentation then expands on ten key psychological processes that underpin ragging, some operating at the level of the organisation and others at the level of the people – i.e., the ragger(s), victim(s) and bystander(s). The psychological processes include: (i) social processes, (e.g., power dynamics), (ii) cognitive processes (e.g., biased risk perception), (iii) motivational processes – (e.g., need for affiliation), and (iv) emotional processes (e.g., fear of ridicule).  Linking the various psychological processes implicated in ragging across domains and levels of analysis, this presentation hence narrows a gap in the literature. For institutions, a comprehensive conceptualisation of ragging also informs anti-ragging measures so that cohesive, high-performing teams can be forged without compromising on the institution’s safety culture.  Finkel, M. A. (2002). Traumatic injuries caused by hazing practices. The American journal of emergency medicine, 20(3), 228-233.


Ms. Charmaine graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Major in Psychology), highest distinction. Her thesis research was presented at the Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies Annual Convention and National Psychology Graduate Student Conference in 2017, and published in Psychiatry Research in 2019.  She has since worked as a psychologist with the Operations and Leadership Psychology Branch of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, where she has undertaken research in the areas of organisational deviance, wellbeing and crisis leadership. Beyond work, she has been and continues to be an active volunteer with the Victim Care Cadre of the Police Psychological Services Department.

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