Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Behavior
How relevant is social identity theory as an explanation for intergroup behaviour? Justify essay with a detailed critical assessment of current research.
Use starter paper: Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149-178.
Focus on current research and ensure that empirical psychological research is included within the essay discussion.
Use supporting empirical research studies as reported in academic journals. Provide at least two empirical studies
Ensure that all discussion points are appropriately supported with empirical research from primary sources (ie: journal articles rather than textbooks). Care should be taken to ensure the relevance of such research also.
The content of the essay should go beyond descriptive material and key issues covered in the online materials.
Demonstrate broad reading and research, as well as showing knowledge of contemporary research studies which have investigated intergroup behaviour.
Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Behavior
Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Behavior
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Social identity theory details the interrelationship between individual and social identities (Scheepers, & Ellemers, 2019). There are different circumstances under which individuals have a self-reflection as an individual and as a part of a larger group. Social identity theory’s objective is to predict the situations under which an individual reflect themselves as an individual or as a part of a group. Additionally, SIT aims at detailing group behavior and individual perceptions based on personal and social identities. SIT originated from several studies conducted in the 1970s by Henri Tajfel, a British social psychologist. From the studies’ findings, individuals can perceive themselves and other people as group members instead of separate individuals when categorized into groups. From this, there originated the social identity theory from the conviction that being a part of a social group can help individuals to introduce meaning in social circumstances (Scheepers, & Ellemers, 2019). Individuals define themselves and determine how they relate with others through group membership. Initially, STI focused on intergroup relations and conflicts which was later developed into an integral theory that links behavioral motivation and cognitive processes.
Intergroup behavior entails perceptions, feelings, beliefs, and actions that a given group has towards another group. Intergroup behavior may be characterized by biasedness including stereotypes, prejudice, as well as discrimination (Levy, & Dovidio, 2021). On the other hand, the bias may be positive where the feelings, beliefs, and actions of one group towards the other may be positive. The bias may show favorable attitudes and feelings towards members of an in-group and favorable treatment as opposed to unfavorable treatment of other groups. Intergroup behavior can be positive representing cooperation which is beneficial to both in-group and outgroup or prosocial behavior which benefits another group and its members. Intergroup behavior is influenced by social categorization which brings about psychological processes through the identification and motivation of members of the group and the relationships developed among groups (Levy, & Dovidio, 2021).
Intergroup behavior and Social Identity
As initially formulated by social psychologists Tajfel and Turner, social identity theory instigated the notion of social identity in a manner that explains intergroup behavior. STI is a theory that predicts specific intergroup behaviors based on the group’s perceived status, prestige, legitimacy, differences, and stability of those differences as well as the freedom of moving from one group to another. The interconnection between social identity and intergroup behavior is grounded on an individual’s self-perception based on the social group they interact with. From research by Michael, self-perception is significantly influenced by the groups in the society they belong (Hogg, & Abrams, 2007). This may include a group of men, women, African, Latino, American, Christian, Hindu, politicians, and academics among other societal groups. This set of groups identifies an individual socially and is defined by the ontological properties of the social group, the nature of relations between an individual’s in-group and relevant outgroups. According to Michael, it is impossible to separate the self-sense of oneself and the intergroup behavior as they interdependently influence each other. Intergroup behavior is connected to social identity psychologically where an individual’s cognitive reflection of themselves and that of other people is of a social category. The relationship based on Michael’s research identified social identity and intergroup behavior as inseparable psychologically. The process of social identity establishes intergroup behaviors that form the basis of the nature of relations among different social groups hence the form and content of social identity
Understanding Social Identity theory
Based on current research, there are distinct perspectives in which social identity theory explains intensively the intergroup behavior. In explaining the phenomenon of intergroup differentiation and behaviors, and how individuals acquire positive identity, it is crucial to detail the psychological focuses of social identity theory including social categorization, identification, social comparison, and psychological distinctiveness among others.
Social Categorization and Identity
The sense of belonging to a certain group or in-group identification can establish competitive intergroup behavior indirectly with no competitive goal relations is not adequate to explain intergroup behavior and can be further discussed using social categorization. Social categorization in psychology refers to the ways an individual’s mind clusters together people who possess similar characteristics. Under social category, an individual is likely to possess some preconceptions about what the category members are like. That is, an individual does not struggle to figure out what other members are like but automatically identifies the groups they belong to and makes some assumptions about their qualities given the group memberships. The recognition of the existence of different social categories and the belonging of either of the different categories is self-sufficient. An automatic competitive intergroup behavior arises due to the presence of different social categories (Hogg, 2013). The basis of intergroup behaviors is social categorization where behavior between groups occurs when there is the presence of categorization of the social world in separate groups.
Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Behavior
For social identity theory, intergroup behaviors including ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice, favors, discrimination, and intolerance among others are different from interpersonal behaviors. These intergroup behaviors occur when social identity is an important basis of self-perception, where the way a given social group behaves among other groups is dependent on a particular social identity that is salient. Social identities are important in distinct social contexts. That is, social identity may be conformed differently as a function of contextual requirements. Social categorization of individual and other people cognitively generate social identity. Individuals represent groups as the origin of multi-dimensional fuzzy sets of attributes that explain perceptions, feelings, and actions which identify members of a group and its differences from other groups. The originality in the groups is adjusted in a given relative social context to optimize differences between social categories as well as minimize differences within social categories. That is, there is the optimization of the ratio of inter-category distinctions and intra-category differences hence optimizing re (Hogg & Abrams, 2007).
Social categorization integrates individuals into their relevant social groups both in-group and out-group prototypes and results in individuals being perceived as a member of the group and not individually (Liberman, Woodward, & Kinzler, 2017). This perception of not as an individual but group membership is referred to as depersonalization. Self-categorization when applied to oneself, converts an individual’s self-perception of perceiving themselves as an individual to that of being a group member, depersonalizes attitudes, behaviors, and actions and such an individual ends up identifying them as a group member embracing the cultures and beliefs of that particular social group (Liberman, Woodward, & Kinzler, 2017). For these reasons, self-categorization forms the basis of an individual conforming to particular group-related behaviors and the patterns of the associated group as well as intergroup behaviors.
Individuals are perceived to possess multiple identity levels which identify and define their personalities. Generally, people identify themselves based on their attributes and interpersonal relationships which is personal identity. When looking at social categorization, these individuals go further from personal identity to identifying and defining themselves as members of a certain social group hence acquiring social identities from their respective groups. This brings about the concept of social identity which includes an individual’s self-perception which is based on the acquired membership in a certain social group. The social groups possess behaviors that are embraced by their members which differs among different social groups.
Social Comparison and Positive Distinctiveness
According to research by Mathew Baldwin, human beings are subjected to social comparison in their social life (Baldwin & Mussweiler, 2018). Baldwin describes human beings as creatures with the tendency to look at other people in search of information about their perceptions, their feelings, and behaviors which assist them to thrive in the broadly complex and interconnected current social life. To acquire a positive self-perception and social identity, people compare to each other and other groups socially, where they regard themselves as exceptional with positive distinctiveness compared to other groups. A group’s Individuals perceptions of being different from other group members depend on social context. For instance, race is a social group within which the members of the in-group and outgroup are established in certain countries such as the US while irrelevant in other countries.
Social comparison occurs when the members of outgroups must possess significant similarities to the in-group members making social distinctions relevant. Additionally, social comparison occurs when all groups consent to the importance of the attribute of distinction amongst them. Psychologists argue that when in-group regard itself with a positive distinctiveness is itself an intergroup competition. It is because regarding one’s in-group with positive distinctiveness asserts the group’s superiority over the other groups hence a privileged social identity. Using this perspective, social identity theory explains the concepts of intergroup discrimination and conflicts as an end product of social comparison amongst groups. Also, social identity theory explains social changes that entail a person’s desire to move to another social group with a positive reputation and more privileged as well as a group’s effort to assert positive distinctiveness.
Self-conception, group membership, and intergroup behavior
Other than a psychological meeting between two or more people who identify and define themselves, a group also involves social interaction and common goals among others. Individuals gain group membership when they associate themselves with a certain group. According to Sarup, when individuals in a group interact amongst themselves or individually, then the instance is referred to as intergroup behavior. Also, when in-group members interact with a different group or one of its members in terms of their social identifications, the instance is an intergroup behavior (Granberg & Sarup, 2012). The implication here is that different behaviors can be counted as instances of intergroup behavior. Additionally, individuals from different social groups or categories can interact which can also be referred to as intergroup behavior.
Personality and Individual differences
Intergroup behavior can be described as competitive and ethnocentric once individuals identify themselves with a certain social group. In the context of intergroup, individuals act to keep an acquired advantage of their social group over the rest of the social groups concerning reputation, resources they own, and social class among others. The ethnocentrism among intergroup relations varies in extremity including extremity from harmless, friendly rivalry to hatred amongst each other, intolerance, and violence. Hatred, intolerance, and violent extremity of intergroup relations tend to bring about unfairness and inhumanities, and so the perspectives of intergroup behavior have given the major emphasis on these extremities. The issue of extremity continues to be researched where social psychologists wonder about the basis behind the violence extremities. The question is whether their personalities are influenced by their tender childhood experiences exposing them to extreme intolerance and ethnocentrism. From this standpoint, the issue of prejudice, authoritative personality, and intergroup conflict are looked upon. That is, individuals with authoritative personalities from their tender ages predispose them to utmost forms of intergroup behavior.
According to Hogg, authoritarian character exists and is indirectly linked to prejudice and discrimination forms of extreme intergroup behaviors (Hogg, 2016). That is, individuals without an authoritarian personality are vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination as opposed to those with authoritarian personalities. From research conducted about authoritarianism and racism, the findings explained that prejudice is more related to cultural socialization and its normalization of prejudice as a basis of its everyday life, as compared to personality. In psychology, the perspective has been widely accepted as it informs social identity as an influence on intergroup relations.
Social Identity Theory and Intergroup Behavior
Goal Relations and interdependence
Based on the perspective of goal relations and interdependence, intergroup behavior can be explained as an end product of goal relations between groups or individuals. The perspective was formulated by Sherif who explained that people cannot estimate themselves from an individual’s properties to the characteristics of group situations’ (Mazur & Nair, 2017). Based on his research, the basic element in determining the nature of intergroup relations and behavior is by evaluating the relationship of each group to the goal of other groups. Intergroup behavior reflects real or reasonable competition among groups over limited resources. Goals shared among groups promote cooperation which in turn reduces conflicts between groups, increased optimality among members of the same group and of the different groups, and promotes harmony among groups. Additionally, goal interdependence among different groups has an inverse relationship with competitive intergroup behavior where negative goal interrelationships develop competitive intergroup behavior only among individuals identified as powerful in their groups.
Motivation and Effect
Under motivation, one may inquire why individuals engage in intergroup behaviors. Additionally, it would be informative to understand what motivates individuals to identify themselves with certain social groups and the motive behind certain intergroup behaviors. Firstly, common attainable goals among individuals of a given group are one of the motivations for identifying oneself with a specific group. Such mutually exclusive goals are achievable through in-group cooperation or intergroup competitions. The cooperation among in-group members forms the founding behaviors and attitudes which identify one group from others. These intergroup behaviors identify individuals belonging to a certain group where such behaviors can be different among different social groups.
Implications of Social Identity Theory
SIT is crucial in explaining the phenomenon of intergroup social behavior such as discrimination and stereotyping as well as differentiation of in-group members and within-group effects on individual attitude change. Some of the implications of social identity theory include intragroup processes and intergroup processes. Social identity theory offers a basic comprehension of the complicated social processes where people relate with others either individually or as members of the same social group. The perspective is grounded on the social-cultural context where these individuals and grounds originate.
Social identity theory attempts to explain how individuals perceive and conduct themselves within groups. Individuals embrace the in-group norms once they identify and define themselves with a social identity. However, not all in-group members are homogenous. According to SIT, it is legal to have differentiations among group members as long as the differentiation entirely depends on the relative social context in which the group standards are consented (Vestergren, Drury, & Hammar Chiriac, 2019). Individuals belonging to the same social group tend to configure that diverse roles among members are allowed to promote the group’s positive distinctiveness. In-group members are allowed to balance between being a member of their respective group while keeping their individuality as long as there remains a significant difference between their group and other groups. Individuals internalize their attitude change as per their social group categorization.
As mentioned earlier, intergroup behaviors may be characterized by biasedness such as stereotyping and discrimination. When individuals configure with their respective groups holding the attitudes and behaviors consistent with their group norms, they tend to regard their group as favorable and hold negative stereotypes towards other groups. In understanding intergroup behavior, the similar behaviors of the individual members of that particular group form the basis of intergroup behavior. These individuals tend to treat other group members similarly while viewing them as stereotypically homogenous (Vestergren, Drury, & Hammar Chiriac, 2019). Due to social comparison, social groups derive status hierarchies. According to SIT people desire to identify themselves positively from their social group membership, failure to which they either attempt to leave their group or increase their group’s positive distinctiveness. When striving to move from their low social groups, individuals attempt to dissociate themselves from their in-group members and display preferences for outgroup members who possess high social status. In attempting to increase the positive distinctiveness of their lower status group, individuals redefine the comparison of their group to other groups (Vestergren, Drury, & Hammar Chiriac, 2019). For instance, low-status group members may attempt to change the attributes allocated to their in-group from negative to positive or choose a different outgroup that is of lower status than them, as a comparative frame of reference.
Social identity theory forms the basis of understanding how individuals perceive themselves either individually or as a member of a social group. Intergroup behavior involves the perceptions, behaviors, and actions that in-group members have towards outgroup members. Social identity theory is relevant in explaining intergroup behavior as its original formulation introduced the concept of social identity in a manner that explains intergroup behavior. As developed by researchers, SIT is seen to predict intergroup behaviors based on the social status of the group, legitimacy, and prestige among others. An individual tends to identify themselves according to their group membership which links social identity and intergroup behavior. One’s sense is connected with intergroup behavior and the two are inseparable. There are several perspectives of social identity theory used to explain intergroup behavior. Such include group membership and self-conception, personality and individual diversities, goal relations and interdependence, and motivation and effect. Further, social identity theory focuses on three major psychological concepts which explain intergroup behaviors. Social categorization and identity refer to an individual’s sense of belonging to a social group within which social competition is established. Individuals do not only identify themselves individually but define themselves as group members when socially categorized hence acquiring social identities. Social comparison intergroup behavior occurs as a result of individuals categorizing themselves with a specific group where they tend to compare themselves with outgroups. The comparison is aimed to regard an in-group as of high status with a positive distinctiveness and the out-group as of low status.
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