Social Identity

Topics: Sociology, Identity, Gender Pages: 21 (6556 words) Published: December 4, 2013
Social Identity
From "Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender"
I. Conceptions and Definitions
II. Types of Social Identity
III. Multiplicity and Intersectionality
IV. Aspects of Social Identity
V. Assessing Social Identity
VI. Development and Change
VII. Negotiating Social Identities

Glossary
Intersectionality
The condition in which a person simultaneously belongs to two or more social categories or social statuses and the unique consequences that result from that combination.
Minimal group paradigm
An experimental procedure for creating social identity conditions in which participants are arbitrarily assigned to one group or another.
Social representations
Commonly shared and collectively elaborated beliefs about social reality held by members of a culture or subculture. Stereotypes
Organized, consensual beliefs and opinions about specific categories or groups of people.

SOCIAL IDENTIFICATION is the process by which we define ourselves in terms and categories that we share with other people. In contrast to characterizations of personal identity, which may be highly idiosyncratic, social identities assume some commonalities with others. This chapter introduces several key issues surrounding social identity, including form and content, assessment, development and change, and identity negotiation.

I. Conceptions and Definitions
“Identity” is a term that is widely used and, as a consequence, can mean many different things to different people. Identity is sometimes used to refer to a sense of integration of the self, in which different aspects come together in a unified whole. This intrapsychic emphasis is often associated with Erik Erikson, who introduced the term “identity crisis” as part of his stage model of psychological development. Another common use of the term, particularly in contemporary times, is identity politics, where the reference is typically to different political positions that are staked out by members of ethnic and nationality groups. In this article, the term “social identity” refers specifically to those aspects of a person that are defined in terms of his or her group memberships. Although most people are members of many different groups, only some of those groups are meaningful in terms of how we define ourselves. In these cases, our self-definition is shared with other people who also claim that categorical membership, for example, as a woman, as a Muslim, as a marathon runner, or as a Democrat. To share a social identity with others does not necessarily mean that we know or interact with every other member of the designated category. It does mean, however, that we believe that we share numerous features with other members of the category and that, to some degree, events that are relevant to the group as a whole also have significance for the individual member. As an example, a person who defines herself as a feminist is more likely to be aware of legislation regulating abortion, more likely to have read books by Betty Friedan or bell hooks, and more likely to be aware of salary discrepancies between women and men than is a person who does not identify as a feminist.

II. Types of Social Identity

Many forms of social identity exist, reflecting the many ways in which people connect to other groups and social categories. In our own work, we have pointed to five distinct types of social identification: ethnic and religious identities, political identities, vocations and avocations, personal relationships, and stigmatized groups (see Table I). Each of these types of social identification has some unique characteristics that make it somewhat different from another type. Relationship identities, in particular, have some special features. To be a mother, for example, can imply a sense of shared experience with other people who are mothers. Sometimes particular aspects of these experiences can be defined even more...
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