View sample Psychology Of Social Identity Research Paper. Browse other social sciences research paper examples and check the list of research paper topics for more inspiration. If you need a religion research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our research paper writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.
1. Social Identity
Social identity is those aspects of the self-concept that are derived from belonging to social groups and categories. Social identity theory was developed by Henri Tajfel and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the 1970s and 1980s. Social identity is a concept that continues to be used widely in the social psychology of intergroup relations, social inﬂuence, and the self. This research paper describes social identity theory and associated work on intergroup relations and group processes. It points to the diverse areas of research to which the theory has contributed and concludes with issues that are currently being explored.
2. Minimal Conditions For Intergroup Bias
In the 1960s and 1970s social psychology underwent a crisis of conﬁdence that generated a powerful critique of individualistic theorizing and research. In response, European social psychologists began to develop theories that concerned the relationship between individuals and society. Social identity connected cognitive processes of categorization with the social structure of society. Research on social identity therefore ranges from the detailed analysis of cognitive processes underlying stereotyping and prejudice to wide-ranging questions such as reactions to group disadvantage. Tajfel’s early work on social categorization included development of the minimal group paradigm. In this widely used paradigm people are randomly allocated to categories that have little meaning (e.g., A group and B group, or people who prefer Klee vs. Kandinsky). Research participants are unaware of which other individuals belong to the category, or what their characteristics might be. Evidence shows that minimal group membership is a suﬃcient basis for people to allocate points or money preferentially to anonymous members of their own category. They also evaluate in-group members more positively, although it seems that reward allocation and evaluations are not highly correlated. If a trivial categorization is suﬃcient to generate in-group bias, it can be reasoned that more signiﬁcant and meaningful categorizations have substantial real-word consequences. An important theoretical implication of in-group bias in the minimal group paradigm is that ingroup bias does not necessarily have its roots in objective or realistic intergroup conﬂict or in personality diﬀerences or interpersonal dependency.
3. Social Identity Theory
Social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1979) oﬀers an explanation for minimal intergroup bias, and also a broader statement of how relationships between real-world groups relate to social identity. According to social identity theory, there is a continuum on which identity and relationships can be depicted as purely personal and interpersonal at one extreme, and purely social, or intergroup at the other. Personal identity is derived from personality, idiosyncratic traits and features, and particular personal relationships with other individuals. A special emphasis of social identity theory is that an eﬀective account of group and intergroup phenomena is not possible if the theory only considers personal identity and relationships. Social identity is the individual’s knowledge that he or she belongs to certain social groups together with the emotional and value signiﬁcance of the group memberships. Social identity aﬀects and is aﬀected by intergroup relationships. The theory aims to explain the uniformity and coherence of group and intergroup behavior as mediated by social identity (see Hogg and Abrams 1988 for a detailed account).
Categorization leads to accentuation of diﬀerences among objects in diﬀerent categories, and accentuation of similarities of objects within categories. When social categorizations are salient, accentuation results in stereotypical perceptions of both categories. When people categorize one another they generally include the self in one of the categories. Attributes that are stereotypical for the in-group may then be ascribed to self, a process labeled self-stereotyping. As a result of self-stereotyping the self is ‘depersonalized.’ This means that the self and other in-group members are seen as interchangeable in their relationship to outgroup members.
Self-categorization theory (Turner et al. 1987) extends social identity theory. It proposes that the salience of self-categorization depends on a combination of the relative accessibility of the categories (i.e., the perceiver’s readiness to make use of them) and the comparative and normative ﬁt between the social stimuli (i.e., people being perceived) and the available categories. The more that the targets are classiﬁable by a clear criterion (such as gender) and the more that their behavior seems to ﬁt the category normatively (e.g., being domineering vs. considerate), the more readily the categorization will be applied. The categories will be represented in terms of prototypes based on a meta-contrast ratio that minimizes the diﬀerences within categories and maximizes the diﬀerences between categories on criterial dimensions. Categorizing self and others involves perceiving them in terms of their closeness to the relevant group prototype, rather than in terms of their unique personal characteristics. According to self-categorization theory, stereotyping of in-group members, outgroup members, and the self is a normal functional process that responds ﬂexibly to the particular categories that are being compared. The theory therefore challenges traditional models of stereotyping as a form of bias, and of the self-concept as a stable psychological structure (see Abrams and Hogg 2001).
3.2.1 Social Inﬂuence. Depersonalization is thought to underlie social inﬂuence within groups. When social identity is salient, in-group prototypes serve as norms or reference points. For example, attraction to group members is aﬀected more strongly by shared social identity than by interpersonal similarities (Hogg 1992). The coordinated and consistent behavior of crowd members also seems to be more explicable in terms of a shared social identity than in terms of characteristics of the individuals, resulting from a process of referent informational inﬂuence (Turner 1991). In classic social inﬂuence paradigms such as Asch’s conformity experiments, or Sherif’s norm formation experiments, people are more strongly inﬂuenced when they share a category with the source of inﬂuence than when they do not. Moreover, reactions to group deviants are much more hostile if they are deviating toward an out-group norm (Marques et al. 1998).
3.3.1 Positive Distinctiveness. Social identity theory oﬀers a motivational explanation for in-group bias. First, judgments about self as a group member are held to be associated with the outcome of social comparisons between the in-group and relevant outgroups. Second, it is assumed that people desire a satisfactory self-image, and positive self-esteem. Positive self-evaluation as a group member can be achieved by ensuring that the in-group is positively distinctive from the out-group. Usually group members will engage in social competition with out-groups to try to make the in-group positively distinctive. For example, in minimal group experiments, people show a consistent bias both towards maximizing in-group proﬁt and toward maximizing diﬀerential proﬁt in favor of the in-group, even when the total in-group proﬁt suﬀers. The theory does not argue that material considerations are unimportant, but that the symbolic meaning of the group’s position relative to other groups is a powerful motivating consideration.
3.3.2 The Self-Esteem Hypothesis. The motivational component of the theory, sometimes described as the ‘self-esteem hypothesis,’ has been scrutinized in some detail (Abrams and Hogg 2001). Two corollaries of the hypothesis are that expression of in-group bias should maintain or increase self-esteem, and that lowered self-esteem should motivate the expression of in-group bias. These hypotheses only relate to the speciﬁc evaluations of self as a group member immediately before and after judgments or allocations have been made toward the in-group and the out-group. However, few empirical tests have adhered to these requirements, and the evidence supporting them is weak or mixed. Evidence does suggest that people with higher personal self-esteem are more likely to show in-group bias and favoritism. As a consequence of theoretical and practical diﬃculties of the self-esteem hypothesis, other motivational processes have been suggested. Brewer (1981) has proposed that people seek optimal distinctiveness, such that they have some assimilation to a group, but the group has some distinctiveness from other groups. Hogg and Abrams (1993) have suggested that people are motivated to reduce uncertainty, and that clariﬁcation of group membership, adherence to group norms, and associating positive group features with the self are ways to achieve this. However, apart from conformity to pre-existing biased in-group norms, there seems to be no strong alternative candidate to the self-esteem hypothesis as an explanation for in-group bias.
3.4 Social Structure
A second component of social identity theory explicitly addresses the status relationships among groups. To maintain or enhance social identity, people may engage in a variety of strategies. The choice of strategy will depend on perceptions of the relationship between their own and other social groups. The boundaries between groups may be viewed as permeable or impermeable, the status diﬀerences as legitimate or illegitimate, and the nature of these diﬀerences as being stable or unstable. When status diﬀerences are seen as legitimate and stable, the diﬀerences between groups are secure. If group boundaries are permeable, the individuals may have a social mobility belief structure. In this situation they may strive to improve their identity by moving to the higher status group. For example, it is possible to go from school to university by passing the relevant entrance examinations. Social mobility belief structures are strongly endorsed by Western individualistic democracies, in which individual eﬀort and ability are viewed as the basis for the allocation of social goods and resources. When boundaries between groups are viewed as impermeable (e.g., that between men and women, or between blacks and whites), members consider that their social identity can only be improved if the social relationship between the groups changes (a social change belief structure). When the social structure is viewed as illegitimate and/or unstable, the intergroup relationship is ‘insecure,’ and it becomes possible to imagine cognitive alternatives to the status quo. Members of lower status groups will engage in social competition with higher status groups to evaluate and reward their own group more positively. In the absence of cognitive alternatives, group members may still ﬁnd ways of conferring positive distinctiveness on the in-group, using a social creativity strategy. Social creativity strategies include comparing the groups on new (in-group favoring) dimensions, trying to re-value the existing dimensions of comparison so recasting ingroup attributes positively, and engaging in comparisons with other, lower status, out-groups. There is considerable evidence from experimental tests of the theory that these strategies are adopted (e.g., Ellemers et al. 1999).
Social identity has been studied widely in natural intergroup settings. One important area of research is language use and maintenance. Language is an important marker of social identity. For example, use of the matched guise technique, in which the same speaker delivers a passage using diﬀerent accents or dialects, has revealed that judgments of in-group and out-group speakers reveal clear in-group favoritism. Moreover, speakers’ accents converge or diverge depending on whether they view the relationship positively. The ability of a group to sustain its language may reﬂect its ethnolinguistic vitality, which is a function of the perceived status, demography, and institutional support that it has (Giles and Johnson 1987). Finally, there seems to be a linguistic intergroup bias in which people describe positive in-group and out-group attributes in more abstract terms using more speciﬁc terminology (Semin and Fiedler 1991).
3.6 Collective Behavior
A second signiﬁcant area of research is collective behavior and protest. Traditional theories, such as relative deprivation or frustration–aggression theory, have depicted mass protest, rioting, and revolution as products of frustration or dissatisfaction felt by individuals. However, research has shown that social protest and mobilization is predicted by the perception of deprivation of the group relative to other groups. In turn, collective action is more likely when group members feel there is no legitimate alternative, no possibility of social mobility, and when they identify strongly with their group. Some evidence suggests that collective action is usually a last resort, but other evidence suggests that participation in collective action is likely when people identify strongly with their group (Kelly and Breinlinger 1996).
3.7 Organizational Behavior
Social identity is also highly relevant to organizational behavior. Commitment to organizational goals and willingness to contribute to organizational activities, as well as lowered absenteeism and turnover intentions, have all been shown to be associated with higher identiﬁcation with organizations (Ashforth and Mael 1989, Tyler and Smith 1998). Moreover, people’s endorsement of leaders seems to be aﬀected at least as much by the leader’s perceived prototypicality (representativeness of the speciﬁc in-group norm) as by how eﬀective or stereotypically leader-like the person is.
4. Critical Comments And Future Directions
The concept of social identity is widely accepted in social psychology and has contributed to a large volume of research (Robinson 1996). Current work is moving away from the idea that group members are primarily motivated by self-enhancement, and examines the idea that people may be motivated to reduce uncertainty or ﬁnd meaning from their group memberships. In addition, identiﬁcation may be manifested in diﬀerent ways (Deaux 1996), and there are individual diﬀerences that aﬀect people’s behavior, such as diﬀerences in how strongly they identify with particular groups, diﬀerences in their social dominance orientation, and diﬀerences in their willingness to express prejudice. It seems that the strength with which people identify with groups, and the degree of threat to social identity, can moderate the relationship between group status and intergroup bias (Ellemers et al. 1999). Current work is also examining the cognitive processes that aﬀect the self–group relationship. For example, some researchers argue that the self is the primary psychological unit and that it simply extends to include in-groups, in contrast to the idea that the self can be redeﬁned by salient self-categorizations. Recent research also shows evidence of a rapprochement between social cognition approaches to intergroup relations and the social identity perspective (Abrams and Hogg 1999).
- Abrams D, Hogg M A (eds.) 1999 Social Identity and Social Cognition. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
- Abrams D, Hogg M A 2001 Collective identity: group membership and self-conception. In: Hogg M A, Tindale R S (eds.) Handbook of Social Psychology: Group Processes. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp. 425–60
- Ashforth B E, Mael F 1989 Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review 14: 20–39
- Brewer M B 1991 The social self: on being the same and diﬀerent at the same time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 17: 475–82
- Deaux K 1996 Social identiﬁcation. In: Higgins E T, Kruglanski A W (eds.) Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. Guildford Press, New York, pp. 777–98
- Ellemers N, Spears R, Doojse B 1999 Social Identity. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
- Giles H, Johnson P 1987 Ethnolinguistic identity theory: a social psychological approach to language maintenance. International Journal of Sociol Language 68: 256–69
- Hogg M A 1992 The Social Psychology of Group Cohesiveness. Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, UK
- Hogg M A, Abrams D 1988 Social Identiﬁcations: A Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations and Group Processes. Routledge, London
- Hogg M A, Abrams D 1993 Group Motivation: Social Psychological Perspectives. Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, UK
- Kelly C, Breinlinger S 1996 The Social Psychology of Collective Action: Identity, Injustice and Gender. Taylor and Francis, London
- Marques J M, Abrams D, Martinez-Taboada C, Paez D 1998 The role of categorization and in-group norms in judgments of groups and their members. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75: 976–88
- Robinson P (ed.) 1996 Social Groups and Identities: Developing the Legacy of Henri Tajfel. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK
- Semin G R, Fiedler K 1990 The linguistic category model: its bases, applications and range. In: Stroebe W, Hewstone M (eds.) European Review of Social Psychology. J. Wiley, Chichester, UK, Vol. 2, pp. 1–30
- Tajfel H, Turner J C 1979 An integrative theory of intergroup conﬂict. In: Austin W G, Worchel S (eds.) The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Brooks-Cole, Monterey, CA
- Turner J C 1991 Social Inﬂuence. Open University Press, Milton Keynes, UK
- Turner J C, Hogg M A, Oakes P J, Reicher S D, Wetherell M 1987 Rediscovering the Social Group: A Self-categorization Theory. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
- Tyler T R, Smith H J 1998 Social justice and social movements. In: Gilbert D, Fiske S T, Lindzey G (eds.) Handbook of Social Psychology, 4th edn. McGraw-Hill, New York, pp. 595–629