Belonging to social groups (family, sports team, cultural groups) has concrete and beneficial consequences, both on our relationships with the people around us (support, cooperation) and on our own well-being and mental health. However, belonging to groups that promote socially negative behaviours (discrimination, aggression) not only makes these behaviours more acceptable and normative, but such behaviours also have harmful effects on the well-being of individuals. The first objective of this research program is to test whether following social norms that encourage these negative behaviours subsequently influences the well-being and mental health of individuals who engage in these acts. The research program also aims to discover how it is possible to block these harmful social influences. These questions will be examined in a popular and relevant sporting context in Quebec, namely ice hockey. In this context, an innovative intervention that targets the parents of young hockey players will be developed.
This intervention will put forward social norms that emphasize pleasure and learning, rather than unhealthy competitiveness. We will test if this intervention can indeed reduce unsporting hockey behaviours, and also improve the psychological well-being and health of parents and youth. A second goal is to determine how our relationships with animals - as a particularly large social group - can be beneficial to human health. Specifically, we will verify for which individuals and through what mechanisms our relationships with (e.g., domestic) animals can be beneficial to well-being and health. This research will open the door to new interventions and public policies that will not only optimize the mental health of populations, but also improve the relationships between members of different social groups.