The Many Faces of Social Identity: Implications for Political Psychology Author(s): Marilynn B.

Brewer Source: Political Psychology, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 115-125 Published by: International Society of Political Psychology Stable URL: Accessed: 28/08/2010 17:56
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This and of paperreviews various as theoretical drawing definitions social identity it is used in different of frameworks. collective of of conceptualizations with socialidentity political are that for psychology discussed. . 2001 The Many Faces of Social Identity: Implications for Political Psychology Marilynn B.350 Main Street. UK.Malden. Oxford. The conceptof social identityhas been invokedthroughout humansciences the wheneverthereis needfor a conceptual betweenindividual grouplevels of and bridge Socialidentity a linkbetweenthepsychologyof theindividual-the analysis.Political Psychology. Brewer Departmentof Psychology Ohio State University acrossthe social and Social identity a conceptthathas been invented reinvented is and behavioral sciencedisciplines providea criticallinkbetweenthe psychology the to of and the individual thestructure function socialgroups. OX4 IJF. collective role self. MA 02148.It quickly theory becomesclearthatthe termhas no single. 1. implications thesedifferent The identities. identity. and with or As a consequence. socialidentityconcepthas beeninventedand As the reinventedin a wide varietyof theoretical frameworks acrossall the social and and behavioralscience disciplines. distinctions relational identities. Vol. (role-based) among person-based group-based and identities. a consequence. provides of and representation self-and the structure processof socialgroupswithinwhichthe self is embedded. 115 0162-895X ? 2001 International Society of Political Psychology Publishedby Blackwell Publishers.shared the with tryingto meaning. identity. and 108 Cowley Road. a callfor integrative theory drawson allfourdefinitions interactively. problem extractany common definitionis that the term is integrallyembeddedin separate theoretical structures literatures littleor no cross-citation mutualinfluence.If one naively entersa bibliographic in database the andsocialsciencesandsearches thekeyword on "social theresult psychological identity." is a dizzyingarrayof citationsto books and articlesfrom dozens of different literatures-from psychoanalytic to the sociology of social movements. No. identities. KEYWORDS:socialidentity. 22. USA. needssome kindof a roadmap negotiateamongthe different one to associativepathsthatlead to andfromthe conceptin its different manifestations.

Deaux consideredhow the social identity concept varies across different disciplinarycontexts.. the theoriesdiffer in theirrelative emphasis on cognitive processes versus group processes. Reicher. or in termsof demographic characteristics organizational and or groupmemberships. Hogg. models. Oakes. 1982).. suchas classicpsychoanalytic identification theories. p.describe Developmental .In this comparative and Virshup drew a distinction between individual or "me" identities (which includes role-based identities) and collective or "we" identities (which includes groupand social categoryidentities). & Wetherell. review by makingmore specific comparisonsbetween Stryker's (1987) identity theory and McCall and Simmons' (1978) role-identity theory. Tajfel.Hogg.the varioustheoriescan be distinguishedaccordingto whetherthey define social identitiesin termsof social roles andsocial types. and comparingeach of these to Tajfel's (1981) social identity theory.116 Brewer Some Comparisons and Contrasts and a Taxonomy to A few reviewershave attempted bringsome orderto this conceptualanarchy theories that use the social identity term and suggesting by comparing specific dimensions along which the differentmeanings can be comparedand contrasted. on the role of social contextversusinternalstructure intergroup as determinants identity salience. 1987.identifiedsimilaritiesanddifferences between social identity theory. 262). p. She identified three broad theoreticalcontexts in which the term has been defined and elaborated:developmentaltheoriesin psychology. for instance.. Stryker& Serpe. symbolicinteractionist theoriesfromsociology. and social identity theories from the European-basedsocial psychology literature. the conceptualization social identitydiffersacrossthese theoreticalperspectives of in fundamentalways that reflect their differentdisciplinaryorigins and the questions they purportto address.1980. 1987) self-categorization review. Insteadof comparingspecific theories. McCall & Simmons.and White (1995). 1978. On the basis of this distinction.. 106). of Thoits and Virshup(1997) extended the Hogg et al. Turner. 1987). as representedin the works of Tajfel and Turner and colleagues in the social psychological literature(e. According to the reviewers.. Tajfel & Turner.g.Deaux (1996) took a somewhatdifferenttack. Thoits theory. on intragroupversus and differentiation. 1981. and identity tradition theory. 1995. Terry. these theories are similar in their and intentionto "addressthe structure functionof the socially constructedself.Individual("me")social identitiesare "identifications of the self as a certain kind of person." whereas collective ("we") identitiesare"identifications the self witha grouporcategoryas a whole"(Thoits of & Virshup. 1979.. Nonetheless. as representedby varioustheoristsin the symbolic interactionist within sociology (e. Stryker. as a dynamic constructthat mediates the relationshipbetween social structureor society and individual social behavior"(Hogg et al.andMarkus'(1977) self-schematheory.1997.More specifically. Turner's (Turneret al.g. In her comprehensive review of the social identificationconcept in social psychological theoriesandresearch.

Fromthis (p. ultimatelyincorporating otherinto the self. others who sharethe common groupmembership.I For am proposingfour differenttermsto distinguishthese differentmeaningsof social identity. Person-basedsocial identities. On the basis of this criticaldistinction.the social In "ingroup"is a set of individualswho interactby enacting different and complementaryroles. the individual places himself or herself into a defined position relative to othersand to the social system as a whole.the or ingroupis a set of people who sharea commoncharacteristic social experience. Within this framework.I have identifiedfour importantvariationson the social identitytheme thatcapturemost of the usages I know of in the social science literature.and norms of associatedwith specific social roles as aspects of the individualself. The focus in these theories is on the dyad as the unit of identification. sociological theories startwith a focus on the differentiationof the social system into functional roles and status positions and the structuredrelationshipsamong these. I startfrom the assumptionthat all conceptualizationsof social identity refer in some way to the idea that an individual's self-concept is derived. common startingpoint.individualshave differentsocial identitiesdepending on the role or position they occupy. purposesof conceptualclarification. Social identity theory in social psychology also startswith differentiationof the social system. In contrastto developmentaltheoriesthat focus on the acquisitionof identity in the process of socialization at the dyad level. although he also acknowledged mutual ties among group members as a form of identification. sociological role-identitytheory. but it focuses on categoricaldistinctionsratherthanfunctionsor roles as the basis of differentiation. In Thoits and Virshup's(1997) . This propertyis capturedin Tajfel's (1981) early generic definition of social identity as "thatpartof the individual'sself-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membershipof a social group (or groups) togetherwith the value andemotionalsignificanceattachedto thatmembership" 251). or in Freud's (1921/1960) analysis of group psychology. My own taxonomy of social identityconcepts is somethingof an amalgamation of the distinctions and dimensions of comparison identified in previous reviews. which originates in identification with the group leader. expectations.withinthe group. from the social relationshipsand social groupshe or she participatesin. social identitiesrepresentthe internalization the rules. In selecting a particularrole. This termis intendedto referto definitionsof social identity that are located within the individual self-concept. social identitiesare aspectsof the self thathave been particularly influencedby the fact of membershipin specific social groups or categories and the sharedsocialization experiences that such membershipimplies. by contrast. Social identities in this frameworkrepresenta process of some extent and in some sense. conceptualizations differ significantlyin what this derivation process refersto.Facesof SocialIdentity 117 as a process (often unconscious) of emulatinga significantother who serves as a the model. In this usage. In social identity theory.

in which social identityis definedas a "depersonalized" sense of self entailing"ashift towardsthe perception . role identities are also "me"identities in the sense that they are identificationsof the self as a certain kind of person. reversingthe natureof the part-wholerelation. these two meanings of social identity are essentially inverses of each other. relationships Group-basedsocial identities. However. prescribedsocial roles mustbe adaptedto some extentto the characteristics. 1991. Thus.sibling-sibling).g. group-based social identities refer to the perceptionof self as an integralor interchangeable partof a largergroupor social unit. andskills of the specific other(s)occupyingcomplementary roles. role identities define the self in relation to others ( one aspect of the acquisitionof a self-conceptthroughprocesses of socializationand interalization. and ideologies that are associatedwith belonging to a particular refersto the centralityof a particular social social groupor category. and social clubs.teacher-student). and the nature of the specific interpersonal within which thatrole is carriedout.Relationalidentities include occupationalrole relationships(docfamilial relationships(parent-child. Relational social identities. Phinney. expectations. For this reason. This correspondsclosely to the concept of the "interdependent self' as defined by Markusand Kitayama(1991) in theiranalysis of culturaldifferencesin self-construals. unlike person-basedidentities.. Quintessential models of social identityof this type aredevelopmentaltheoriesof genderidentity (e. According to Thoits and Virshup (1997).g. Ferdman. Skevington & Baker. and close personalrelationships(friendshipsand sexual partnerships). Relational social identities are interdependent the sense that the traitsand in behaviors expressed by one individual are dependent on and responsive to the behavior and expectancies of the other parties in the relationship. ethnic or racial identity (e. This category also includes group identities when the groups involved are defined by a network of interpersonalrelationships among interacting individuals. customs. 1980). 1990).. Hence. and culturalidentity (e. the acquisition of psychological traits.Even highly needs.1995). this is the meaning of social identity that is invoked in response to the question "Whatkind of person am I?" or "Whoam I as an X?" (where "X"refers to a social category membership).Identification to the individual'ssense of self and the meaningthatis derived groupmembership from thatidentity.relational identitiesreflect the influence on the self-concept of societal norms and expectations associatedwith occupying particular roles or social positions. Cross. beliefs.This is the conceptualizationof social identity that is most often studied developmentally. tor-patient.Group-basedsocial identity is best capturedby Turner'sself-categorizationtheory. 1989). work teams.118 Brewer terms. such as families.g. Brewer and Gardner(1996) have arguedthat role identities are among a type of social identity that derives from interpersonal relationshipswithin a largergroup context. Whereasperson-basedsocial identitiesreflect the extent to which a group or category membershipis representedas an integral part of an individual's self-concept. The emphasishere is on the content of identity.

" A related discussion can be found in Prentice. Turneret al. the concept of collective identity inof volves sharedrepresentations the groupbased on common interestsand experiences. Group identities are not forged from interpersonalrelationshipsbetween and among individual group members.. the construal of self extends beyond the between self and individualpersonto a more inclusive social unit. when a group identity is engaged. Although group-basedsocial identities affect the content of self-representations throughthe processesof identificationandassimilation.Thus.Facesof SocialIdentity 119 of self as an interchangeable exemplarof some social categoryand away from the of self as a uniqueperson"(Turner al.. but ratherfrom common ties to a sharedcategorymembership. 1987.the conceptof collective identityprovidesa criticallink betweensocial identity(atbothindividualandgroup levels) and collective action in the political arena (Gamson. above and beyond what categorymembershave in commonto begin with.g. Miller. 1992). Klandermans. Second. Taylor & Whittier.g.& Kennedy. 1987. 50).. and Zillmann. Hirt. and Lightdale's (1994) distinction between "common-bond" "common-identity" and social groups. individual self are assimilated enhancingthose featuresthatmake the groupdistinctivefrom othersocial categories and at the same time enhancinguniformityand cohesion within the group(cf.The fortunesand misfortunesof the group as a whole are ingroup incorporatedinto the self and responded to as personal outcomes (e. 1992). the attributes behaviorsof the to the representationof the group as a whole.. This is the essence et perception of what Thoits and Virshupreferredto as collective or "we"identities.' Group-basedsocial identity influences the self-concept in two ways. First. 1989. Melucci. social identity theory is primarily concerned with the process by which such are group-selfrepresentations formedratherthanthe meaningattachedto specific group identities. p. . 1992) and is a key concept in the study of "identitypolitics. chapter5). Collective identities.Erickson.1997.As such. and ideologies that such an identificationentails. The term collective identity is associated with the sociological literatureon social movements (e. it is useful to make a furtherdistinction between social identity as identificationwith a collective and collective identity as the norms.identification of the self with the group as a whole. values.collective identities representan achievementof collective efforts. Like group-basedsocial identities. but it also refers to an active process of shaping and forging an image of whatthe groupstandsfor andhow it wishes to be viewed by others. Thus. The boundaries between othergroupmembersareeclipsed by the greatersalienceof theboundaries and outgroups.

sometimes with legal and financial regulations distinguishing between those of us who have children and those who do not (a category often furtherdifferentiatedon the basis of the ages of one's children).andmy self-evaluation is assimilatedto (rather thancontrasted from)the fate of my fellow groupmembers. . by our sharedunderstandings the mother-daughter Women who sharethe experienceof motherhoodalso constitutea meaningful social category.othermothersaretargetsof interpersonal my own effectiveness by whetherI am doing better or worse than others in the same role. At the personallevel. Just as the demands into andresponsibilitiesof raisinga child hadto be integrated my lifestyle anddaily routines. (I also find that I am much more tolerantof other people's childrenwhen I think of motherhoodas a sharedgroupidentityratherthanan individualrole!) Finally. a professional. (As a mother. motherhood(like applepie) is a collective identity-a socially shared image that invokes specific collective values and ideals.Thinkingof us mothersas a social categoryratherthana social role has significanteffects on my orientation toward others who share that identity.The mutualadjustments and accommodationsamongthese differentaspectsof my life shapedthe development of my personalsocial identityas a mother.and a political liberal.I found thatmany of the behaviorsappropriate my young-and-singlesocial role were no to considered fitting to my new station in life.120 Brewer An Illustration: What Does Being a Mom Mean? To make the above taxonomicdistinctionsmoreconcrete. Societal Being a motheris also a social role I occupy in relationto my daughter. the nature of our relationship(and our respective infancy identitieswithinthatrelationship)is andalways will be constrainedandchanneled of roles. becoming a motherhad a profoundeffect on my definition of the kind of person I am. It is a collective identity frequentlyexploited for commercialpurposes (especially on Mother's Day) but also serves as a basis for mobilization to social action groups such as Mothers Against DrunkDriving.however. When motherhoodis a role social comparisonandI evaluate identity.) Although the specific role longer behaviorsrequired motherhood by changedandadaptedas my daughter grew from to young adulthood. As a social category member. normsandexpectationsassociatedwith fulfilling the parentalrole not only became partof my own identitybut also defined the kind of social unit I could form with my daughterand affected my relationshipsto othersas well.I will use one of my own cherished social identities-motherhood-as an illustrationof the different meanings of the identityconcept.the fact of being a motherhad to be integratedwith otherconceptionsof myself as a woman. my concern is for the relative in to positionof mothers generalcompared othersocialgroups.

Theories of role-basedor relationalidentities thus view the self as multifaceted. in and values thatan individualinheritsfrommembership differentprimarygroups and social categories are integratedinto a global self-concept. When social identityis defined as partof an individualself-system. However. But the different conceptualizationsof what social identity is give rise to very different views of what it means to have multiple social identities. the individual(eitherconsciously or subconsciously)weighs andassesses available aspectsof the self to determinewhich areactivatedorengagedas guidesto behavior in the currentsituation.2000. p. sometimes being defined more inclusively and sometimes more exclusively as a function of intergroupcomparisons. Actualization or enactmentof differentidentities is influenced by the demandsof the situation or social context. 1994).Thus.attitudes.areusuallyconceptualizedas structured sets of interrelatedbehaviors. that A subtledifferencebetween person-basedor role identitytheoriesand groupbased social identity theories is whether alternativeidentities are selected and activated by the individual or elicited by the social context. "personspotentially have as many identities as there are organized systems of in role-relationships which they participate" (Stryker. identities reside in the sharedrepresentation the social category as a which may change as a function of the intergroupenvironment.on the otherhand. Theoriesof person-basedsocial identitygenerallyassume thatthe traits.By this usage. the which case self-expressionreflects some choice or compromiseamong differentaspects of the self-concept. On an ongoing basis. obligations. "same"social categoryidentitymay actuallyreferto a differentingroup-outgroup distinctionin differentsocial contexts. All social identity theories share the recognition that individualscan-and usually do-derive their identitiesfrom more than one social group. the self is also viewed as an organized system that structures relationshipsamong the differentidentitiesand determineswhich identityis invoked at a particular time as a function of the relative salience and centralityof identities within and across social situations(Stryker& Serpe.but ultimatelythey areall partof a single representation of the was clearthatI was choosing one amongmany social identitiesI could have drawn upon from my own experience. Consciousnessof a particulargroup membershipmay affect the relative salience of these different aspectsof the self-concept. managing multipleidentitiesis somethinglike an internal juggling act.composedby a set of discreteidentities. 28).In the . In group identity of theories. and orientations toward others that are specific to that social role and hence differentiatedfrom other role identitiesthat the same individualmay hold. but the process is one of selecting from a repertory of identities or self-representations reside within the individual.Faces of Social Identity 121 Managing Multiple Social Identities In using motherhoodas an example social identityfor illustrativepurposes.The individualmay be awarethat differentidentitieshave conflicting implicationsfor behavior. Role identities.

Consideringgroup identities as loyalties or allegiances to a collective. and ethnic identityin the culturaldomain). with social categories whose definitionandboundaries remainrelativelystableacrosstime andsituations. includingonly those with overlappinggroupmembershipsin common (e.. the AfricanAmericanwho identifies with all Americansand all blacks as common ingroupmembershipssimultaneously).they containat least one person(the individualhimself or herself) in common.two strategiesfor combiningingroupidentitiesare available.g. Because group identities go for beyondthe individualself andset the boundaries a person's sense of connection andconcernfor others.dependingon which combinationrule is used.Oakes.But other group identity theorists (e.A second strategyis to segregatedifferentgroup identities to different domainsso thatmultipleidentitiesarenot activatedat the same time (e. Haslam. 2 Membershipsamong a person's multiplegroupidentitiesare of necessity overlappingto some extent because. there are at least four differentstrategiesthat an individualcan use to managemultiple identities.the individualcannot easily redefine or adjustone social identityto betterfit with otheridentitiesthatconnect him or her to a differentset of persons. Abrams. 1999) allow for more enduring ingroup identifications. opposed to selecting a subgroupidentityas primaryand subscribingto nationalidentityonly when not in conflict with one's own subgroup interests).The inclusive strategyis additive: Shared ingroup identity is extended to all members of the respective identitygroups(e..The alternativeis a conjunctive strategy in which the ingroup is defined as the intersectionof the multiplecategories. & McGarty.. When group identities are enduring.managingmultipleidentitiesat this level is somethingquite different from balancing different identities at the intrapsychiclevel. When multiple group identities that involve overlappingbut not equivalent sets of persons2are salient at the same time and in the same circumstance. the AfricanAmericanwho identifiesonly with those who sharethe combinedidentity as AfricanAmericans). different categorical identities are mutually exclusive and completely context-dependent. the awarenessof multipleidentities can have the effect of either increasing the inclusiveness of an individual's social identity or narrowingthe group identification.occupationalidentity when economic interestsare at stake. at minimum. selectingnationalidentity all as primaryand supportingsubgroupinterestsonly to the extent thatthey converge with nationalinterests. . adopting nationalidentity in the international is possible for an individual to have multiple group-basedsocial identities at one time.g.g.g. One possibility is to commit to one dominantgroup identificationand subordinate otheraffiliationsto this one identity(e.122 Brewer most extreme version of self-categorizationtheory (e. Because group identities are shared..g.g. 1994).. Different group identities imply differentloyalties and allegiances to others externalto the individual self.

Neitherthe "we"nor the "me"definitionof social identitycan be consideredprimaryor prior to the other. Some level of identificationwith the groupas a whole may be partof the process of introjectionand interalization of groupnorms. then.the value of differentperspectives should be recognized and acknowledged. multiple criss-crossing social identities can become a source of increasing fractionationor enhanced stability. Ultimately. The alternativesolution of conjunctive identity has the effect of removing the individual from conflicting demands by contracting the boundaries of group identificationandenlargingthe outgroup. Toward an Interdisciplinary Integration Throughoutthis essay. I have triedto make it evident that social identity-in all of its manifestations-is a key concept for political psychology.which presupposesthatgroupmembershave the groupmembership as partof their individualsocial identities.managingcombinedidentities becomes more problematicand effortful.Rather than attemptingto extract some common definitionof a concept like social identity. As an interdisciplinaryenterprise.Ultimately. pluralisticsociety. all of the meaningsof social identitywill be necessaryto develop a comprehensivetheoryof the psychobetweenindividualsandthe social groupsto which they belong logical relationship or are assigned.In a large.political psychology should provide a playing field in which concepts from different disciplines and theoretical traditions can be brought together in an integrative framework.dependingon how competing identitiesare managed. and sharedexperiencesat the individuallevel. Whetherone is trying to explain individualsocial behavioror the uniformity of collective behavior. some understandingof the reciprocal relations between groupboundariesandcollective identitieson the one handand individualself-concept on the other will be essential. the individualis likely to exert efforts towardcompromiseand reconciliation-efforts that have the effect of reducing conflict and increasingtolerance. the additive strategyis relatively easy.with the effect of reducingtoleranceand potential cooperation. However. when multiple groups make competingdemandsor imply differentagendas.Faces of Social Identity 123 When the demands of different group allegiances are not in conflict. . it is the dynamic relationshipbetween these that makes grouplife and collective action possible. Groupidentificationis based on awarenessof sharedidentities.values.When combined identities are each strong. limited only by constraintson an individual's time and attention to different constituencies.

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