Social Identity Theory

Topics: Social psychology, Perception, Social identity Pages: 5 (1158 words) Published: August 19, 2008
Social Identity Theory

People's behaviour in groups is fascinating and frequently disturbing. As soon as humans are bunched together in groups, they would start behaving similarly. One minute is all that is required to create an opinion and categorize others according to what they perceived is right.

SIT is defined as "the individual's knowledge" of personal membership in specific social groups, together with the "emotional value and significance" placed on such membership by the individual (Tajfel, 1982). SIT proposes the process of categorizing oneself as a group member gives an individual's behaviour a distinct meaning, creating a positively valued social identity. Therefore when an individual is interacting with another person, they will not act as a single individual but rather as a representative of the group.

Issues of Social Identity Theory

The three issues of SIT namely are personal identity, social perception and stereotyping.

People have personal identity which makes them unique. Personal identity refers to something about being an individual without reference to a larger group. For example, being the best employee of the month.

Social perception refers to the categorization of behaviour among a certain group. It explains how we perceived others. This social perception to form and maintain the social identity is influenced by three activities: categorization, homogenization and differentiation.

This process shows how perception occurs among people which include categorizing people, forming homogeneous images of people within those groups. Racist and sexist discrimination is inevitable such as the case of females working as engineers.

Quoted by Crump, Logan and McIlroy (2007), female discrimination is referring to “there was an obvious gendering of the workforce with most technical positions held by men and woman working mainly the softer side of ICT”. This shows that discrimination occurs as people perceived female to be the weaker gender and unable to endure the hardships.

The third issue is stereotyping. Stereotyping is the process of assigning traits to people based on their membership in a social category. Stereotypes are typical generalizations based on minimal or limited knowledge about a group to which the person doing the stereotyping does not belong. Historical factors, first impressions, simplification, exaggeration, cultural differences, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination can influence stereotyping.

A subconsciously held stereotype is difficult to modify or discard even after we collect real information about a person, because it is often thought to reflect reality. On the other hand, a stereotype, like a good joke, often has a grain of truth to it. So, stereotypes can be either helpful or harmful depending on how we use them.

Importance of Social Identity Theory

SIT is based on the motivational assumption of self-esteem to achieve or maintain a positive social identity. Thus, employees’ motivation and performance may be directly linked to their self- categorization. People get self-esteem from social groups and will pursue goals that maintain or increase their social identity. This is also known as collective behaviour.

It is predicted that an employee who holds the organization as an important part of their identity will be motivated to engage in the organization’s goal rather than personal goals.

The psychological attachment to the organization is likely to be a reliable predictor of employees’ turnover. When people identity strongly with the organization, they hold a positive aspect of the employee’s identity, which he or she is less interested in losing compared to when the social identity inhabits lover levels of importance. (Abrams and Moura, 2001)

Problems of Social Identity Theory

SIT plays a fundamental role in the organization as it is an important factor in cross-cultural communication....
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