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Evaluate Social Identity Theory,making Reference to Relevant Studies

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Evaluate socSocial Identity Theory

Evaluate social identity theory,

making reference to relevant studiesWhat is Social Identity Theory?

* This social cognitive theory was developed particularly by Henri Tajfel and is one of the main

theories in European social psychology. Social identity theory proposes that the membership of

social groups and categories forms an important part of our self-concept. Therefore when an

individual is interacting with another person, they will not act as a single individual but as a

representative of a whole group or category of people. Even during a single conversation an

individual may interact with another person both on a personal level and as a member of a particular


* There are three fundamental psychological mechanisms underlying social identity theory. The first

psychological process is categorization which refers to the process whereby objects, events and

people are classified into categories. By doing so we tend to exaggerate the similarities of those in

the same group and exaggerate the differences between those in different groups.

* The second psychological process is social comparison. Social comparison refers to the process of

comparing one's own social group with others. Some social groups have more power, prestige or

status than others and therefore members of a group will compare their own groups with others and

determine the relative status of their own group. This also results in the tendency for members of a

group to distance themselves from membership of a group which does not share the same beliefs

and ideas of their group and take more account of the beliefs and ideas of their social group.

* The third psychological process relates to the tendency for people to use group membership as a

source of positive self esteem. Maintaining positive self esteem is seen as a basic motivation for

humans therefore if a group does not compare favorably with others we may seek to leave the group

or distance ourselves from it. However if leaving the group is impossible then people may adopt

strategies such as comparing their own group to a group of a lower status.Breakwell (1978)

* Description

- When we belong to a group, we are likely to derive our sense of identity, at least in

part, from that group. We also enhance the sense of identity by making comparisons

with out-groups.

- Social identity is different from personal identity, which is derived from personal

characteristics and individual relationships.

* Research

- Breakwell (1978) studied teenage soccer fans, some of whom went to most games,

whilst others did not go to games. Those who did not go to games were the most

vehement about their loyalty and showed most in-group bias, presumably as they had

a greater need to prove themselves as fans.

* Example

- When abroad, especially in countries which have particularly different languages and

cultures, we feel our nationality far more keenly than when we are at home. We will

tend to band together in national groups, perhaps making comments about the

strangeness of the natives.

* Using it

- Invite the other person into a group which has characteristics that you want the other

person to adopt.

* Defending

- By all means build a social identity. Just pick the groups you join with care.Reicher and Haslam (BBC prison study)

* Reicher and Haslam carried out this experimental case study

to examine the consequences of randomly dividing men into

groups of prisoners and guards within a specially

constructed institution over a period of 8 days.

* Unlike the prisoners, the guards failed to identify with their

role. This made the guards reluctant to impose their



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