Social Identity Theory


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SIT and cross-cultural psychology

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Social Identity Theory

  2. 2. Evolves from theories of social cognition Deals with the ways people perceive/think about themselves and others How people process information about their own group (in-group) and other groups (out-groups) Ethnic and cultural identity forms the core of the conceptual frameworks, links self-definition to group membership Intergroup processes/dynamics also considered
  3. 3. Guided by cognitive influence in modern psychology Theories focus on internal mental processes (rather than external, observable behaviors) Focus on how groups see each other; how prejudice arises; why people leave certain groups and not others; how group membership affects self-esteem Special attention is given to perceptions, attributions, expectations, attitudes and values held and expressed at the group level
  4. 4. Acculturating individuals must consider: “Who am I?”-references shifting ethnic, culturaland/or national identities “How do members of my group relate to other groups?”-concerns emergent intergroup attitudesand perceptions.
  5. 5. Theoretical Perspectives Acculturation models and measurements-influenced by personality theory and focuses on thestructure and content of cognitions about self. Social Identity Theory (SIT)-emerged from contemporary social psychologyhighlighting significance of group membership forindividual identity, and the role of socialcategorization and social comparison in relation toself-esteem.
  6. 6. Acculturation and Identity Cultural identification involves the recognition, categorization or self- identification of oneself as a member of an ethnocultural group, and includes a sense of pride and a positive evaluation of one‟s group Broad concept of identification in acculturation literature includes study of attitudes, values and even behaviors
  7. 7. Acculturation and Identity (cont.) Focuses specifically on broad identity changes that occur as a result of intercultural contact between individuals from different societies In balance model of acculturation, biculturalism is seen as middle-ground between assimilation and separatism (has replaced unidirectional model where immigrants/refugees were regarded as having to choose between identification with either heritage or contact cultures); many measurements rely on this approach despite some weaknesses
  8. 8. More sophisticated models Conceptualize home and host culture identity as independent (rather than interdependent) Categorical Approach (such as Berry‟s model, which is guided by questions concerning maintenance of heritage culture/relations with other groups and the four acculturation attitudes/strategies that arise in connection with these questions (pg 102, Ward)
  9. 9. Core research on identity and acculturation Relates to components of identity and how identity is changed over time Conditions associated with identity and identity change Characteristics of the individual such as age, gender and education Characteristics of migrant group such as push/pull motivations and cultural similarity Characteristics of receiving society such as mono or multiculturalism, loose/tight systems
  10. 10. Social Identity theory Tajfel points to three major defining features:  It is part of the self concept  It requires awareness of membership in a group  It has evaluative and emotional significance
  11. 11. SIT (cont.) At the process level, social identification involves social categorization and social comparison, or the recognition that various in/out groups exist, that they may be compared, and that favorable/unfavorable comparisons have consequences for self-esteem. A relationship between ethnic identity and self- esteem occurs only in cases when an individual consciously perceives ethnicity or culture as a central, salient feature of identity.
  12. 12. Intergroup Bias and Attributions In naturally occurring groups (as well as in laboratory conditions), in-group favoritism is common  individuals are more likely to make internal attributions for positive behaviors by in-groups (kindness, honesty and intelligence) and external attributions for the same behaviors by out- groups (circumstances)  out-group derogation increases when identity in under threat
  13. 13. SIT also considers responses to out-group devaluation Migrants and minorities are often subjected to negative stereotyping and prejudicial attitudes by members of the majority. If perceived as threatening, individual‟s may adopt a variety of responses to change their social identities and restore self-esteem. Table 5.1, pg 105 (Ward et al.)
  14. 14. Identity, Acculturation and Intercultural Contact Identity involves complex processes by individuals define, redefine and construct their own and others‟ ethnicity (research looks at intrapersonal, interpersonal and intergroup variables that affect social identity) When acculturation starts early it proceeds more smoothly It appears that assimilation proceeds more rapidly in boys than girls, men than women, and women have more negative attitudes toward assimilation
  15. 15. Cultural Identity Across Generations Cultural transmission exerts a strong influence on the development and maintenance of cultural identity in successive generations. First generation is often separatist, retaining a strong identity with heritage culture; the second generation more easily identifies with host culture; third generation often emerge as reaffirmationists with a renewed interest in ethnic customs, values and behaviors
  16. 16. Distinction between cognitive and behavioral aspects of acculturation Inter-related but exhibit different patterns of change over time Immigrants/refugees more willing to learn new behaviors and skills than change their attitudes and values thus success in new environment involves skills acquisition that may be independent of changes in self- concept and core values
  17. 17. Quality and Quantity of Contact Greater exposure to the host culture is associated with stronger assimilative responses. Increased length of residence strengthens host culture identity and weakens home culture identity. Conditions under which contact occurs (perceived attitudes by hosts), intracultural contact and communication similarly influence social identity. Membership in intra-ethnic organizations and language choice affect assimilative responses
  18. 18. Acculturation and Adaptation Findings are inconsistent Home-culture and host-culture identification make independent contributions to cross-cultural adjustment and influence different adjustment domains  Identification with culture of origin is associated with better psychological adjustment  Identification with contact culture in linked to better sociopolitical adaptation
  19. 19. Intergroup Perceptions and Relations SIT emphasizes the importance of social categorization, comparison and in-group favoritism yet research supports „integrationist‟ preference by migrant groups, which suggests that integrative efforts may be blocked by members of receiving culture and that emerging social identities may be negatively affected by out-group stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.
  20. 20. Attributions and Stereotypes Attributions refer to judgements or causal explanations about human behavior used to make sense of environment but often influenced by motivational biases such as the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem (internal/dispositional vs. external/situational factors). Self-serving bias: tendency to accept credit for success and deny responsibility for failure (also at the group level)
  21. 21. Self-serving bias among groups Indian study by Taylor and Jaggi (1974) in which members of the majority Hindu community gave internal attributions for desirable acts when performed by in-group and external attributions for same behaviors by out-groups. Israeli students in the U.S. gave more internal attributions for Israeli moral acts and fewer internal attributions for Israeli immoral acts than Arab students, and vice versa (Rosenburg and Wolsfeld, 1977)
  22. 22. Intergroup Stereotypes In-group favoritism is also present in intergroup stereotypes Negative out-group stereotypes have significant implications for prejudice and discrimination in receiving societies Social psychological theory suggests that increased contact—at least under certain conditions—may improve perceptions and relations „crystallization‟ hypothesis: increased contact may sharpen intergroup perceptions
  23. 23. Prerequisites for positive perceptions: Equal status Pursuit of common goals Contact of an intimate, rather than casual nature Broader social climate supporting intergroup contact(Amir and Ben-Ari, 1988)
  24. 24. Perceived Discrimination Associated with less willingness to adopt to host culture identity Related to negative outcomes like increased stress, identity conflict, depression and social skills deficits Strategies by immigrants in response include assimilation, attempting to pass as members of the dominant society, selecting alternative groups for social comparison, reevaluating in-group stereotypes, social action for group betterment
  25. 25. SIT and Multicultural Ideology SIT theories have rather negative implications for multicultural societies as much of the acculturation literature sees assimilation as a natural, desirable and inevitable consequence of migration, which limits options for the maintenance of cultural identity in sojourners. SIT, on the other hand, argues that positive social comparisons, involving in-group favoritism/out-group devaluation are a primary source of self-esteem enhancement, suggesting that prejudice, discrimination and conflict are inevitable.
  26. 26. “Multicultural Assumption” Assumes that the development and maintenance of a secure in-group identity can lead to greater intergroup acceptance and tolerance Draws attention to the sociopolitical context in which intercultural relations occur and highlights ethnocentric biases in models that feature assimilation as natural outcome acculturation Points to limitations of acculturation models and SIT but more contemporary research is needed None of the existing theories are comprehensive enough to account for ID/ID change/intergroup relations