Social Role Theory : The Communication Theory Of Identity

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According to Hecht (2015), the “Communication Theory of Identity” began with the study of “self” (p. 176), which found its origins in philosophy (Mead, 1913) and, more modernly, in psychology and sociology (Hecht, 2015, p. 176). The focus on individualism began as early as the 1950’s under the constructs of self-esteem and self-concepts when questions arose about how people thought and/or felt about themselves. Scholars believed that understanding how individuals thought and felt about themselves would pave the way to better understand how people communicate. When scholars referred to “self” in a singular form it assumed that an individual had one single identity. The problem with this perspective is that, as found later, people assume a “layered” identity. For example, an athlete may be hard working on the basketball court, but aggressive and self-protected on the streets of Richmond, California. The more modern study of “self” in the disciplines of psychology and sociological describes “self” as forming from social interactions and perceptions of others. For example, how key adults such as teachers, coaches, and/or church leaders influence a child’s development. Over time, the term “self” became the term “identity. “Identity” draws on the sociological “social role theory” that detailed how people define themselves through the roles they play in society. Veering away from “self” and assuming the “identity” approach presented a more complex and precise depiction of people
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