Social Identity Processes: Trends in Theory and Research

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Individuals who strive for upward social mobility try to dissociate from members of the ingroup that they perceive as lower in the status hierarchy and display preferences for members of a higher-status group. An example of this phenomenon is internalized racial oppression, involving self-hate among racial minorities and their desire to emulate mainstream. White Americans.

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Mobility out of a lower-status group is considered an individual rather than a group endeavor, and while possibly changing the status of an individual, such individual mobility does not change the status of the groups. Rather than attempting to leave their existing groups, some members of lower-status groups may instead try to make their group more positively distinct. They can do this by redefining how their group is being compared with others. For example, lower-status groups may attempt to emphasize another dimension for social comparison, one that casts a more positive light on them.

Lower-status groups may also change the values of attributes assigned to their group from negative to positive.


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In addition, lower-status groups may select a different outgroup as a comparative frame of reference. This usually involves selecting a comparison group that is perceived to be of lower status than the group. These processes by which members of lower-status groups attempt to make their group more positively distinct are collective actions that attempt to change the status of the group as a whole. Another way that an ingroup may assert their positive distinctiveness is by attempting to change the status position of their group along the valued dimension of comparison.

For example, the civil rights movement was an attempt by minorities to change their status position in the United States through fighting for more rights. The result of social competition changes the status hierarchy as a whole. When competition occurs over scarce resources, social competition will lead to conflict between higher-status groups, who wish to retain their resources and social position, and lower-status groups.

Social Identity Processes

More recently, social identity theory has been applied to better understand how individuals organize themselves within groups. When individuals define themselves with a social identity, they construct and conform to the ingroup norms.

Identity Theory vs. Social Identity Theory

However, few groups exist where all members are entirely homogeneous. According to social identity theory, differentiation among members of an ingroup may be allowed, with the nature of such differentiation dependent on the social context in which group norms are agreed. Members of a group may agree that heterogeneous roles among members are allowed or even necessary for the group to enhance its positive distinctiveness. Individuals are allowed a level of optimal distinctiveness, or the freedom to balance the desire to be part of a group while maintaining individuality, so long as there remains a greater perceived difference between, rather than within, groups.

For example, a basketball team comprises players who all identify as members of the same team, but each player contributes to help the team win games.

Social Identity Processes: trends in theory and research : Sussex Research Online

Attitude change is internalized by individuals through their self-categorization as group members. Social identity theory informs our broad understanding of the complex social processes through which individuals interact with others as individuals and as group members. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist.

Social Identity Processes: trends in theory and research

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