Most groups have requirements for membership, but usually these requirements have some obvious relationship to the group's purpose. A requirement which does not appear to have any such relationship, and which therefore appears to be otherwise irrational or unfounded, may be an arbitrary requirement. Such requirements are used to widen the gap and draw a thick line of separation between members and non-members.
Those who do not adhere to the arbitrary requirement are excluded from the group, and thus do not gain the benefits of group membership. Those who do adhere to it reinforce the group's power structure in the following ways:
- the level of sacrifice necessary in order to adhere to the Arbitrary Requirement adds to the perceived value of group membership
- adherence to such an arbitrary rule, i.e. a rule which does not make intuitive or logical sense, enhances acceptance of further arbitrary rules by inuring each member to the idea that rules often don't make sense.
The arbitrary requirement itself is often designed to mark group members in some visible way, which leads to a sense of unity among group members (often in association with a feeling of being ridiculed or repressed by those not in the group), further thickening the dividing line between members and non-members.
Arbitrary Requirements are often accompanied by an argument which may seem to make sense at first, but which under close examination either falls apart or leads to further questions which are not discussed. Such arguments may be part of a larger group ideology which is often internally consistent but with few or no clear connections to observable reality.
Arbitrary requirements for group membership are a type of power structure meme. They may also be applied asymmetrically (i.e. relaxed in such a way as to ease entry to the group, but strengthened once a member has joined so as to make it harder to leave).