The subsequent research is pertinent to the study of the social identities of
volunteers and those in need of assistance and the inter-organizational relationship they
have. The Social Identity Theory is extremely relevant in this particular study to look at
how the social environment of the nonprofit world impacts its members, specifically
volunteers and those they are helping. Inter-organizational relationships and
interactions must also be researched more fully to understand the occurrences between
these two groups. Finally, the literature review will conclude with information on self-
image, so that this study is able to link the relations between the two groups and the
members, but also the impact that is being made on individuals.
Social Identity Theory
For the majority, social identity theory(SIT) focuses on the biases, prejudices,
and discriminations that is formulated among various social groups that is a key element
of self-concept and is shaped and reinforced by membership of social groups and
categories (Hargie, et al.). For this reason, it is imperative to apply this theory to the
current study to investigate the relationship between volunteers and those they assist
and the affects that it has on each of the groups involved and the individuals within
those groups. Social identities and how they are categorized are vital to the self-
concepts and self-images that people formulate for them. Turner (as cited in Price, )
divides the social identity theory into three stages: (1) categorizing people into groups
according to their membership giving them a salient identity, (2) understanding and
comprehending aspects of the groups being evaluated, and (3) attaching stereotypes to
one’s one group and own self.
Hargie, et al, explains that social identity is evaluated through the comparison of
two groups and the interactions that take place between them. This process of
interaction between groups and within one’s one group encourages identification of the
group a person is involved in, enhancing certain stereotypes of both the in- and out-
group. Due to the stereotypes that are formed by groups, it is assumed that there is a
hierarchy in place where groups are structured in relation to one another (Oktar, ). In
accordance to this, Capreiello ( ), suggests that social structures that are in place
predict stereotypes and these stereotypes predict emotions.
Within intergroup contexts, there is typically a minimization of intra-group
differences and an increase in inter-group differences (Oktar, ). In other words, we see
people of the same group more similar and people of separate groups extremely
different. This is most often present in time of conflict between groups. Also within our
own groups, member tends to feel that their own groups is more endangered that other
groups and that your own group is often treated unfairly in comparison to comparable
According to Richardson ( ), stimuli can increase the salience of a particular
social identity including conflict, competition, unequal distribution of resources, group
distinctiveness, in-group similarities, shared fate, interdependence, number of
members, and physical proximity. Many of these are relevant to this study being done
especially unequal distribution of resources, in-group similarities among those being
assisted, and interdependence.
Social Categorization Theory
Another important aspect of social identity is an additional perspective, social
categorization. This focuses more on the differentiation done between opposing groups,
then individuals learn this and adopt the stereotypes that are given to their own group
(Hargie, ). Here, people are categorized then viewed through that stereotype lens which
depersonalizes our perception of people (hogg). Not only does this affect how other
people are viewed, it also works to categorize us. This process of identifying people by
the groups in which they are involved in works to give us our identities and compose the
behavior in which we act out.
Prior research of this topic informs that in fact, social identities are extremely
relevant to the daily lives of individuals and their interaction between other individuals of
the same group as well as other groups. This study will be conducted to apply this topic
to a specific relationship that has yet to be studied. It is important to perform research
on the interaction between volunteers and those they assistance to better know the
implications that come from their affiliation.
An individual’s awareness of group memberships and differences between
groups can be explained by group salience (hajek). In many intergroup contexts, the
individual sees themselves as first a member of particular group and then they are able
to concentrate on the intergroup relationships that are taking place (Weisr). With this
study, there is a high level of group salience between volunteers and those they are
helping. Along with this, with this previous research, volunteers first see themselves as
volunteers prior to interacting with the other group. The same occurs with the other
group, they see themselves as a part of a group such as those of a older generation.
Once the two groups come into contact the volunteers see themselves as helping other
individuals of another group and the other group sees themselves as being helped.
A large factor in how groups relate to one another is much a member is typical of
their group and acts out the stereotype given to them, called outgroup typicality (Hajek).
A specific way in which the participants in this study might be looked at is in conjunction
with the communication accommodation theory. This theory looks at how people of
different groups accommodate, underaccomodate, or over accommodate the people in
which they are communicating with (Hajek). Because accommodation is done on such a
personal level because topics such as interest and feelings are talked about, it is often
perceived as a positive act (Rittneour, ). When underaccomodation occurs, a negative
Intergroup dialogue is rooted in Western culture and it may occur once or
overtime to give individuals and groups a safe and structured opportunity to explore
various societal issues. Participants are socially encouraged to suspend assumptions,
collaborate willingly, believe in all participants, speak from experience, and be open to
new ideas and possibilities for the group (Dessel). Dessel, Rogge, and Garlington ( as
cited in Dessel).
This research sets up a foundation for how intergroup relationships take place on
a general basis. The current study will bring new information to how more specific
groups interact with each other so that their relationship can be improved if needed.
Self images are a result of an individual’s personal experiences with the
environment and one’s own evaluations of these experiences (Moller). These
experiences come from people that are close to us, concrete feedback, and causal
Disidentification can been seen through cynicism, humor, skepticism, and irony
and for the most part is viewed as a negative occurrence. Dis-identification can also
have positives when people seek out to find who “they really are” (Castas, )
The proposed study will provide more information to the combination of the
preceding research of social identity, intergroup interactions and self-image. By
investigating the relationships that volunteers and those they assist, the researcers
hope to gain insight on the outcomes of the relationships and more importantly, how
they can be improved.