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Evaluate Social Identity Theory Making Reference to Relevant Studies

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The tendency to see ourselves as part of a group is fundamental to human nature. The Social Identity Theory (SIT) suggests that we will discriminate against an out-group even if there is no competition.

Tajfels SIT assumes that individuals strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance (strengthen/intensify) their self-esteem, based on either personal identity or various social identities. This means that people can boost their self-esteem through personal achievement or with affiliation (connection to) succesfull groups, which also indicated the importance of social belonging. SIT is based on the cognitive process of social categorization.

Tajfels SIT was based on a series of experiments called the minimal group studies. Participants were told that the investigators are researching vision and are shown dots on the screen. They were then divided into two groups: over estimators and under estimators. The two groups were actually random. The participants (who were all boys) were then told they could allocate points to other participants which could later be converted into money. The boys chose to allocate points to other boys in their own group more than to the other group, in spite of the fact that there was no direct competition between the two groups.

Tajfel argues that people who belong to a group - or, even more interestingly, when people are randomly assigned to a group - they automatically think of that group as their in group (us) and all others as an out groups (them). They will exhibit in group favouritism, and a pattern of discrimination against the out group. Levine et al (2005) carried out an experiment on football supporters. They were invited to a secluded part of a university campus, where they witnessed a stranger fall and apparently hurt themselves. In one condition the person who fell wore their team colours, in the other condition another teams colours. The controlled variable was the stranger wearing a plain t-shirt. The football supporters were much more likely to help those wearing their team's colours. The experiment itself had an objective measurement of helping, and a clear manipulation if the independent variable (the colour of the shirts) but many participants were excluded from the results which may mean that there might have been a problem with the

measurement or a loss of information by categorizing into 'helping' and 'not helping' groups. It could be argued that the experiment was artificial, as by increasing the salience of the participants identity, the experiment becomes unrealistic. Finally, the sample of male university students is hard to generalise to any other group of people.

In the Kandinsky versus Klee experiment, Tajfel et al (1971) observed that boys who were randomly assigned to a group, based on their supposed preference for either Kansinsky or Klee, were ore likely to identify with the boys in their group, and were (similarly to the minimal group study above) willing to give higher awards to members of their own group. When asked for ratings of in-group and out-group on traits such as likability, researchers found that the out group was rated less likable.

Typically, when there are two groups, there are inequalities between them. There is usually a dominant group and a subordinate group. The two experiments above (Levine and Tajfel) are examples of this. The dominant group has more power. Furthermore sometimes the subordinate group act together against the dominant group. This is called collective action. Whether collective action takes place

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