Critically Evaluate Social Identity Theory

2060 Words Oct 7th, 2009 9 Pages
Lauren Thom, 3215788.

Psyc 315: Social Psychology

2,046 words.

Critically evaluate Social Identity Theory.

Who are you? Who am I? These are questions that we all ponder at some point or another in our lives. As human beings we are seemingly inundated with the desire to classify and categorise. We are constantly defining and analysing the differences that we observe in the world, it seems only natural that we would apply this method of classification to our position within our society. More specifically, we want to understand our social identities and this can be achieved by acknowledging which groups we identify most with.

Tajfel and Turner (1986) define this phenomenon of classification within a social context as
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Human beings tend to see the group that they associate with in a more favourable light than the groups that they do not associate with. This is known as “in-group favouritism” (Turner and Tajfel, 1986) One explanation as to why this is done is that we boost our self esteem by viewing the group we belong to in a more favourable light than the group with which we have no affiliation. This seems quite logical in that we feel a sense of pride when our group seems somewhat better or superior to other groups.

One could argue that this then inflates our sense of belonging in the world if we feel that there are others who share similar values to us. This then strengthens our resolve by essentially confirming that we are engaging in the right behaviours and holding the right ideals as we associate ourselves with others who feel the same as we do. This then leads them to strengthen our tenacity of in-group favouritism by rewarding our prejudiced behaviours. A positive outcome of this is that it can have a flow on effect to our altruistic nature as human beings and we would be more likely to help those with whom we feel a certain affiliation. It is in this regard that the Social Identity Theory can yield positive results through a framework of philanthropic behaviour and support for in-group members. The converse of this behaviour is that we see an increase in negative behaviours towards those with whom we feel have conflicting goals and essentially belong to an “out group”.
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