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Peter J. Burke & Jan E. Stets “Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory”

December 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Burke, Peter J.; Jan E. Stets 2000. Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly 63(3): 224-237

In social identity theory, a social identity is a person’s knowledge that he or she belongs to a social category or group. A social group is a set of individuals who hold a common social identification or view themselves as members of the same social category. Through a social comparison process, persons who are similar to the self are categorizes with the self and are labeled the in-group; persons who differ from the self are categorized as the out-group. (225)

Once in society, people derive their identity or sense of self largely from the social categories to which they belong. Each person, however, over the course of his or her personal history, is a member of a unique combination of social categories; therefore the set of social identities making up that person’s self-concept is unique. (225)

In identity theory, the core of an identity is the categorization of the self as an occupant of a role, and the incorporation, into the self, of the meanings and expectations associate with that role and its performance. (225)

[…] a role-based identity expresses not the uniformity of perceptions and behaviors that accompanies a group-based identity, but interconnected uniqueness. The emphasis is not on the similarity with others in the same role, but on the individuality and interrelatedness with others in counterroles in the group or interaction context. By maintaining the meanings, expectations, and resources associated with a role, role identities maintain the complex interrelatedness of social structures. (227)

Social identity theorists regard the group as a collective of similar persons all of whom identify with each other in similar ways, and hold similar views, all in contrast to members of outgroups. Identity theorists regard the group as a set of interrelated individuals, each of whom performs unique but integrated activities, sees things from his or her own perspective, and negotiates the terms of interaction. (227-228)

People are tied organically to their groups through social identities; they are tied mechanically through their role identities within groups. (228)

In social identity theory, the person (or „personal“) identity is the lowest level of self-categorization. It is the categorization of the self as a unique entity, distinct from other individuals. (228)

The person identity is the set of meanings that are tied to and sustain the self as an individual; these self-meanings operate across various roles and situations in the same way as Deaux believes that some person identities pervade all the membership groups to which one belongs. (229)

[…] identity theorists distinguish between the probability that an identity will be activated (salience) and that an identity actually will be played out in a situation (activation). […] By separating activation from salience, identity theorists can investigate factors such as context […], which activate an identity in the situation, separately from factors such as commitment, which influence the probability that an identity will be played out across situations. (230)

Identity theory focuses on social structural arrangements and the link between persons; social identity theory focuses on characteristics of situations in which the identity may be activated; both theories acknowledge the importance of the individual’s goals and purposes. (231)

The central cognitive process in social identity theory is depersonalization, or seeing the self as an embodiment of the in-group prototype (a cognitive representation of the social category containint the meanings and norms that the person associates with the social category; Hogg et al. 1995). (231)

In regard to the motivational underpinnings of an identity, social identity theory holds that when a group identity is activated, people behave so as to enhance the evaluation of the in-group relative to the out-group and thereby to enhance their own self-evaluation as group members (Turner et al. 1987). (232)

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