Socail Identity Theory and the Discursive

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From a social psychological point of view, group membership ‘is primarily a cognitive matter’. Discuss this statement in relation to social identity theory and discursive psychology. Social psychology deals with how people make sense of the social aspects of the world they live in and how they make sense of themselves and others. This sense of being and belonging is not only about themselves and others but also how and why social interactions take place and how these interactions influence individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Group membership is not a definite attribution to an individual’s social identity as there are different versions of group membership. The default memberships e.g. Family and local communities and the intra group memberships eg groups that are formed with other individuals on a small scale or large scale. This could be based on an individual’s identity with a small group or it can take on a more societal dimension such an ethnicity or class. Group membership for the purpose of this essay, is where the individual comes together with the social. It is through social psychology that the concepts and processes are researched to access why such processes occur. Cognitive psychologists believe that categorisation is a cognitive shortcut. The way individuals stereotype and group individuals is a by product of this process. To say that group membership is primarily a cognitive matter is not wholly disputed by other avenues of research in this area. Social identity theory (SID) and discursive psychology approach do take into account other concepts and processes of individuals’ influences to their uptake of group memberships. Social identity theory had its origins in the work by Henry Tajfel, a British based Polish psychologist in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The social identity theory is mainly based on the distinction between personal and social identity. Turner 1982 stated that individuals have many social identities as groups that they feel they belong to. The different in-groups individuals belong to have separate set of norms and out -groups are used for social identification and comparison. The main hypothesis of social identity is that achieving and maintaining a satisfactory identity requires group members to search for distinctions between themselves and other groups, essentially power relations comparisons to intergroups. The outcome of these intergroup comparisons will influence an individual’s self esteem. Where positive distinctiveness is unsatisfactory, individuals will seek for positive self esteem, thus using social mobility to pass from a lower to a higher status group. This social mobility is an individualistic approach and not a group approach. The disidentification with the lower status group is not for individual gain but more so for the benefit of the group. Social creativity is a group strategy that groups uses in order to redefine or alter elements of their group. Turning negative comparisons into positives’ or comparing the in-group with lower status out- groups which would boost self esteem. Social identity theory looks at the interpersonal and group behaviours as separate phenomena. Individuals need to have positivity in order to maintain or enhance their self esteem. There are equal and unequal power relations and how cognition is a guide to how the social world is perceived. Tajfel, 1970; Tajfel et al., 1971 conducted a study known as the ‘minimal group paradigm’. Participants were divided into groups. Participants were unknown to each other and identity was in the form of numbers. The participants had to distribute money to members of their in-group but not themselves, and to the other group, the out-group members. The details were recorded in specially designed booklets. The amounts given were anonymous. The results of the study showed a strong in-group bias. The participants maximized the difference between the in-group and the out-group. The participants had...
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