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Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory

Author(s): Jan E. Stets and Peter J. Burke

Source: Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp. 224-237
Published by: American Sociological Association
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Social PsychologyQuarterly
2000,Vol. 63,No. 3,224-237

IdentityTheoryand Social IdentityTheory*


In social psychology,we need to establisha generaltheoryof theself whichcan attend

to bothmacroand microprocesses,and whichavoids theredundanciesofseparatethe-
orieson different aspectsof theself For thispurpose,we presentcore componentsof
identitytheoryand social identitytheoryand argue thatalthoughdifferences exist
betweenthetwotheories, theyare moredifferences in emphasisthanin kind,and that
linkingthetwotheoriescan establisha morefullyintegrated viewof theself The core
componentswe examineincludethedifferent bases ofidentity(category/group or role)
in each of thetheories, salienceand theactivationof identities
identity as discussedin
thetheories, and thecognitiveand motivationalprocessesthatemergefromidentities
based on category/group and on role.By examiningtheselfthroughthelens of both
identitytheoryand social identitytheory,we see how,in combination, theycan moveus
towarda generaltheoryof theself

In contrastto Hogg and his colleagues ories. The third area involves the core
(Hogg,Terry,and White1995),we see sub- processesthatarise once an identity is acti-
stantial similaritiesand overlap between vated. In thisregard we discussthe cognitive
socialidentitytheoryand identity theory.We processes of depersonalization (in social
thinkthat thisoverlap will
ultimately cause identity theory)andself-verification (in iden-
these theoriesto be linkedin fundamental titytheory) as well as the motivational
ways,thoughwe do not thinkthattimehas processes of self-esteem(in social identity
come.To showhowsucha mergeris possible, theory)andself-efficacy (in identitytheory).
we outline some important similarities For thoseless familiarwithsocialidenti-
betweenthe theories;at the same timewe tytheoryand identity theory,we beginwitha
notethedifferences in language,orientation, briefreviewoftheconceptofidentity as used
and coverageofthetwotheoriesas theycur- in boththeories. Thenwe reviewthetheories
rentlyexist.' on the pointsidentifiedabove,witha focus
We believethatthreeareasare centralto on identifying thewaysin whicheach might
linkingthetwotheories.Firstare the differ- reinforce and complement theother.To out-
entbases ofidentity in thetwotheories:cate- line identityin thetwotheories, we firstdis-
gories or groups for social identity theory, cusshoweach theoryconceptualizes theself.
and rolesforidentity theory. A relatedissue
is the place ofpersonidentities. The second THE CONCEPT OF IDENTITY
area is the activationof identitiesand the
conceptofsalienceas usedin each ofthethe- In socialidentitytheoryand identity the-
ory,the selfis reflexivein thatit can take
* An earlierversionof thispaper was presentedat itselfas an objectand can categorize, classify,
the 1998 meetings of the American Sociological or nameitselfinparticular waysinrelationto
Association,held in San Francisco.We wish to thank othersocial categoriesor classifications. This
membersof the Social PsychologyGraduateTraining processis called self-categorization in social
Seminar in the Department of Sociology at
WashingtonState Universityfor theirhelpfulcom-
identity theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes,
mentson an earlier versionof thispaper. Direct all Reicher,andWetherell1987);in identity the-
correspondence to Jan E. Stets, Department of ory it is called identification(McCall and
Sociology,WashingtonState University, Pullman,WA Simmons1978).Throughtheprocessof self-
1 We recognize that this goal is a moving target categorization an identity
or identification, is
because both theoriesare underactivedevelopment. formed.

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In socialidentity theory,a socialidentity uals are bornintoan alreadystructured soci-

is a person's knowledge that he or she ety.Once insociety, peoplederivetheiridenti-
belongsto a social categoryor group(Hogg ty or sense of self largelyfromthe social
and Abrams1988).A social groupis a set of categoriesto whichtheybelong.Each person,
individuals whoholda commonsocialidenti- however, overthecourseofhisor herperson-
ficationor view themselvesas membersof al history, is a memberof a uniquecombina-
the same social category.Througha social tionof social categories;therefore the set of
comparisonprocess,personswho are similar socialidentities makingup thatperson'sself-
to the selfare categorizedwiththe selfand conceptis unique.
are labeled thein-group; personswho differ In identitytheory, self-categorization is
fromthe self are categorized as the out- equally relevantto the formationof one's
group.In earlywork,socialidentity included identity,in which categorizationdepends
theemotional,evaluative,and otherpsycho- upon a namedand classifiedworld(Stryker
logical correlatesof in-groupclassification 1980).Amongtheclasstermslearnedwithina
(Turneret al. 1987:20). Later researchers cultureare symbolsthatare usedto designate
oftenseparatedthe self-categorization com- positions-therelativelystable,morphologi-
ponentfromtheself-esteem (evaluative)and cal componentsof social structurethatare
commitment (psychological)componentsin termedroles.Thus,likesocialidentity theory,
orderto empirically investigatetherelation- identity theorydealsprincipally withthecom-
ships among them (Ellemers and Van ponentsofa structured society. Personsacting
Knippenberg 1997). in the contextof social structure name one
The twoimportant processesinvolvedin anotherand themselves in thesenseofrecog-
socialidentity formation,namelyself-catego- nizingone anotheras occupantsof positions
rizationand social comparison, producedif- (roles).Thisnaminginvokesmeaningsin the
ferentconsequences (Hogg and Abrams formof expectationswithregardto others'
1988). The consequence of self-categoriza- and one's own behaviors (McCall and
tionis an accentuation oftheperceivedsimi- Simmons1978;Stryker 1980).
laritiesbetweenthe selfand otherin-group In identity thecoreof an identity
members,and an accentuationof the per- is the categorizationof the selfas an occu-
ceiveddifferences betweentheselfand out- pantofa role,and theincorporation, intothe
groupmembers. Thisaccentuation occursfor self,ofthemeaningsand expectations associ-
all the attitudes,beliefsand values,affective ated with that role and its performance
reactions, behavioralnorms,stylesofspeech, (Burke and Tully1977;Thoits1986). These
and otherpropertiesthatare believedto be expectations andmeaningsforma setofstan-
correlatedwiththerelevantintergroup cate- dards that guide behavior (Burke 1991;
gorization.The consequence of the social Burke and Reitzes 1981). In addition, as
comparisonprocessis the selectiveapplica- McCall and Simmons(1978) make clear,the
tionof the acceiituationeffect, primarily to namingwithinidentity theoryincludesall the
those dimensionsthat will result in self- things(includingselfand other)thattakeon
enhancingoutcomesfortheself.Specifically, meaningin relationto our plans and activi-
one's self-esteem is enhancedby evaluating ties.More recently, identitytheoristshave
the in-groupand the out-groupon dimen- drawn on this meaningful relationship
sionsthatlead thein-groupto be judgedpos- betweenpersonsand thingsto incorporate
itively and the out-group to be judged theconceptof resources(thingsthatsustain
negatively. personsand interactions) as a centralcompo-
As Hogg andAbrams(1988) makeclear, nentin identity processes(Freeseand Burke
thesocialcategories inwhichindividuals place 1994).Muchofthemeaningful activitywithin
themselvesare partsof a structured society a rolethatis governedbyan identity revolves
and existonlyin relationto othercontrasting around the control of resources (Burke
categories(forexample,blackvs.white);each 1997); this feature as much as anything,
hasmoreor lesspower,prestige, status,andso definessocialstructure.
on. Further, theseauthorspointout thatthe In general,one's identities are composed
socialcategoriesprecedeindividuals; individ- oftheself-views thatemergefromthereflex-

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iveactivityofself-categorization or identifica- groupmembersand out-groupmembersare
tion in termsof membershipin particular enhancedand are made morehomogeneous
groupsor roles.Thus,althoughthe basis of by identification withthein-group(Haslam,
self-classificationis different in thetwotheo- Oakes, McGarty,Turner,Reynolds, and
ries(group/category versusrole),theorists in Eggins 1996). Similarly, othershave found
bothtraditions recognizethatindividuals view strongevidence that group identification
themselves in termsofmeaningsimpartedby influences theviewoftheselfas prototypical
a structured society(McCall and Simmons in the group(Hogg and Hardie 1992). Still
1978;Stryker1980;Turneret al. 1987). The othershave foundthatin-grouphomogene-
basesofidentity constitute thefirstarea relat- ityis especiallystrongwhenno motivational
ed to linkingthesetwotheories. forcesexistto distinguishtheselffromothers
within the group (Brewer 1993; Simon,
THE BASES OF IDENTITY Pantaleo,and Mummendey 1995).3
Along attitudinal lines,people uniformly
Muchofsocialidentity theorydeals with make positiveevaluationsof a group,when
intergrouprelations-that is, how people theybecome groupmembers.For example,
come to see themselvesas membersof one social identityresearchershave foundthat
group/category (thein-group)in comparison individuals whoidentify withthegroupfeela
withanother(theout-group), and theconse- strongattraction tothegroupas a whole,inde-
quencesofthiscategorization, suchas ethno- pendentof individualattachments withinthe
centrism (Turneret al. 1987).Here,however, group(Hogg andHardie1992).Similarly, oth-
we addresstheviewofsocialidentity on what ers have foundthatin-groupidentification
occurswhenone becomesan in-groupmem- leadsto greatercommitment to thegroupand
ber;and laterwe comparethiswiththeview to less desireto leave the group,even when
of identitytheoryon whatoccurswhenone thegroup'sstatusis relatively low (Ellemers,
takeson a role. Spears,andDoosje 1997).
Havinga particular socialidentity means peoplebehaveinconcertwithina
beingat one witha certaingroup,beinglike group withwhichtheyidentify. Even in a
othersinthegroup,andseeingthings fromthe low-status minority group,forexample,indi-
group'sperspective.2 In contrast, havinga par- vidualswho use the grouplabel to describe
ticularroleidentity meansactingto fulfill the themselves aremorelikelythannottopartic-
expectationsof the role, coordinatingand ipate in the group's culture,to distinguish
negotiatinginteraction withrolepartners, and themselvesfromtheout-group, and to show
manipulating theenvironment to controlthe attractionto the group in theirbehavior
resourcesforwhichtherolehasresponsibility.(Ethier and Deaux 1994; Ullah 1987).
Hereinlies an important distinction between Similarly,groupthinkor extremeconcur-
group-and role-basedidentities: thebasis of rence in decision-makinggroups is much
socialidentity is in theuniformity of percep- more likelyunderconditionsof highsocial
tionand actionamonggroupmembers, while identification (Turner,Pratkanis,Probasco,
thebasisofroleidentity residesin thediffer- and Leve 1992).In addition,socialidentifica-
encesin perceptions and actionsthataccom- tionis one of the primebases forparticipa-
panya roleas itrelatesto counterroles. tion in social movements(Simon, Loewy,
In group-basedidentities, theuniformity Stuermer, Weber, Freytag, Habig,
of perceptionrevealsitselfin severalways Kampmeier, and Spahlinger1998).
(Hogg andAbrams1988;Oakes,Haslam,and In general,we finduniformity ofpercep-
Turner 1994). These may be categorized tion and action among personswhen they
along cognitive,attitudinal, and behavioral take on a group-basedidentity. This point
lines.Social stereotyping is primaryamong contrastssomewhatwiththe consequences
the cognitiveoutcomes: researchershave
found that stereotypedperceptionsof in-
3 Perhaps because of the strongfocus on homo-
2 Ratherthancontinuingto use the awkward geneity,a social identitytheoryof intragroupdiffer-
group/category designation,we will generallyuse the entiationand structurehas not yet been developed
termgroup. (Hains, Hogg,and Duck 1997).

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oftakingon a roleidentity. Role identity the- negotiatedso thatroleidentities are verified,
oristshave focusedon the matchbetween a strongattachment to the groupdevelops.
theindividualmeaningsof occupyinga par- Stillotherresearchhas shownthedisruptive
ticularrole and thebehaviorsthata person effectsthat can occur in the familywhen
enacts in thatrole while interactingwith- fathersbegin to take on some of the role
others (Burke 1980; Burke and Reitzes behaviorsthattraditionally are performed
1981).Thismatchincludesthenegotiation of bymothers(Ellestadand Stets1998).
meaningsforsituationsand identities,and In group-based identities, only the
how theyfittogetherto providea situated actor'sperceptionsand actionsare directly
contextforinteraction. By takingon a role involved;in role-basedidentities, otherindi-
identity, persons adopt self-meaningsand viduals in the group who occupy counter-
expectationsto accompany the role as it roles are directly involved in the role
relatesto otherrolesin the group,and then performance (Burke 1980; Burke and
actto represent andpreservethesemeanings Reitzes 1981). In group-basedidentities, the
and expectations(ThoitsandVirshup1997). actorneed notinteractwithgroupmembers.
The meaningsand expectationsvaryacross Indeed, the minimalgroup experimentsin
persons in the set of roles activated in a social identity theoryprecludedanyinterac-
situation. tion (Turneret al. 1987).When mostof the
Earlyin thedevelopmentof role identi- actorsin a categoryhold the same percep-
tytheory, McCall and Simmons(1978) dis- tions,those perceptionsare mutuallyrein-
cussed the importance of negotiation in forced,and group formationis the result
workingout the differential performances, (Turneret al. 1987).Actingin unison,howev-
relationships, and interconnections of roles er,is thebehavioralconsequenceforindivid-
withina groupor interaction context.If each ual members, because theyall have thesame
role is to function, it mustbe able to relyon perceptions.
the reciprocityand exchangerelationwith In role-based identities,some formof
otherroles.Individualsdo not view them- interaction and negotiation is usually
selves as similarto the otherswithwhom involvedas one performs a role (McCall and
theyinteract, butas different, withtheirown Simmons 1978). Relations are reciprocal
interests, duties,and resources.Each role is ratherthanparallel.Differentperspectives
relatedto,but set apartfrom,counterroles; are involvedamongthepersonsin thegroup
oftenthe interestscompete,so thatproper as theynegotiateand performtheirrespec-
role performance can be achieved only tive roles,creatingmicrosocial structures
throughnegotiation. withinthe group (Riley and Burke 1995;
Evidenceof negotiatedrolesis revealed Stets 1997; Stets and Burke 1996). Thus a
in identityresearch.For example,research role-basedidentity expressesnottheunifor-
on leadershiprole identity foundthatwhen mityof perceptions and behaviors that
individualscould not negotiatedifferential accompanies a group-based identity,but
leadershipperformances in a groupthatver- interconnected uniqueness.The emphasisis
ifiedtheiridentity, theybecameless satisfied noton thesimilarity withothersin thesame
withtheirrole and less inclinedto remainin role,but on the individuality and interrelat-
the group (Riley and Burke 1995). Other edness withothersin counterrolesin the
research found that the differentgender groupor interaction context.By maintaining
roles in marriageresultin different (albeit the meanings,expectations,and resources
negotiated) behaviors for men and for associatedwitha role,role identitiesmain-
women (husbands and wives) (Stets and tain the complexinterrelatedness of social
Burke1996).4In laterwork,Burkeand Stets structures.
(1999) showedthatwhendifferent butinter- Whenresearchers focuson thedifferent
related role behaviors and meanings are waysin whichpeople are linkedto groups,
throughsocial identitiesand throughrole
4Taking the role of the otherseems to move indi-
viduals towardthe other's identity(Burke and Cast ently.Social identitytheoristsregard the
1997). groupas a collectiveof similarpersonsall of

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whomidentifywitheach other,see them- nesspersons;5 theseare intergroup relations.
selves and each otherin similarways,and We pointout thatone alwaysand simultane-
holdsimilarviews,all in contrastto members ouslyoccupiesa roleand belongsto a group,
of outgroups.Identitytheoristsregardthe so thatroleidentities and socialidentities are
group as a set of interrelatedindividuals, alwaysand simultaneously relevantto, and
each ofwhomperforms uniquebutintegrat- influential on,perceptions, affect,and behav-
ed activities,sees thingsfromhis or herown ior.6Forthisreasonwe cannoteasilyseparate
perspective,and negotiates the termsof rolefromgroup,eitheranalytically or empir-
interaction. ically (Deaux 1992b; Thoits and Virshup
The groupand therolebases ofidentity 1997). Althoughit is importantto examine
correspondto the organicand mechanical how a personcategorizesherselfor himself
formsof societal integrationanalyzed by as a memberofa group,itis also important to
Durkheim([1893] 1984),whichformedthe observetherolethatthepersonenactswhile
basis of muchdiscussionand theoryin soci- a memberof the group.For example,group
ology.People are tied organicallyto their belongingness maybe a function notonlyof
groupsthrough theyare tied self-categorization
socialidentities; (Hogg and Abrams1988)
mechanicallythroughtheirrole identities butalso of assuminga high-status roleiinthe
withingroups.A fullunderstanding of soci- group.
etymustincorporate boththeorganic/group Not onlycan we not easilydisentangle
and the mechanical/role formbecause each groupidentitiesfromrole identities; we also
is only one aspect of societythat links to cannot easily separate the group and role
individualidentitiesin separatebut related identity fromthepersonidentity. Bothsocial
ways. identity theoristsand identity theoristshave
To illustrate,let us considerthe identi- discussedthe personidentity, but theyhave
ties of teacher and student.First,teacher largelyfailed to examine how it mightbe
and studentare rolesthatare definedwith- incorporated intotheirtheories. To establish
in the group/organization of a school. a general theory of the self,we must under-
Meaningsand expectationsare tied to each stand how group, role, and person identities
of these roles,regardingperformanceand are interrelated.
the relationshipsbetween these roles. At In social identitytheory, the person(or
the same time, teacher and student are "personal") identityis the lowest level of
social categoriesor groupsthat constitute self-categorization (Brewer1991;Hogg and
(more stronglyin some situationsthan in Abrams1988).It is thecategorization ofthe
others)in-groupsand out-groups. Here the self as a unique entity,distinctfromother
focusis more on membershipthanon per- individuals.The individualacts in termsof
formance, and intergroupissues are promi- his or herown goals and desiresratherthan
nent. Not all roles, however, are tied as a memberofa groupor category. The level
intimately to gr6ups.For example,the roles of identity that is activated (the personal or
of husbandand wife within the family are the social) depends on factors in the situa-
accompanied by meanings and expecta- tion,suchas social comparisonor normative
tions,but the social categoriesof husband fit,whichmake a groupidentityoperative
and wife only occasionally constitutean and overridethepersonalidentity.
in-group/out-group pair. Deaux (1992a) attemptsto linktheper-
Whetherone is a teacheror wife,she is sonal identityto the social identity.She
at once in a role and in a social category.In arguesthatsomefeaturesof social identities
focusingon the role,we considerthe group
(school or family) and the relationships 5Whether one makes thecomparisonwithstudents
amongthedifferent roleswithinthatgroup; or businesspersonsdepends on the context.This rais-
these are intragrouprelations.In focusing es theissue of salience,whichwe addresslater.
6 As we shall see, however,when we focus on one
on the categorical aspect, we look at the
aspect or the other (role or group),certainfeatures
groupof teachers,forexample,in termsof become relevantfor understandingcognition,emo-
what theyhave in commonin relationto tions,and behavior;thesefeatureshave been empha-
other groups such as students or busi- sized by one theoryor theother,but seldomby both.

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are consensually based and willbe expressed integratethese different identitybases and
alongnormative lines,whereasotheraspects show how theyoperatesimultaneously in a
maybe based on personalfeelingsandvalues situation, we can addressthedegreeto which
andwillbe expressedalongthoselines.Thus, individuals are constrainedby structural
idiosyncratic characteristics (one's personal expectations(tied to groupand role identi-
identities)are added to normative character- ties) or have some choicein theirenactment
isticsof social identities.AlthoughDeaux (throughpersonidentities).Further, we can
indicatesthatparticularpersonalidentities examinehowindividualsresolvethedistress
maybe linkedto specificsocialidentities, cre- thatoccurswhenthemeaningstiedto differ-
atinguniquewaysofexpressing membership ent identities(group,role,or person)inter-
in particulargroups,she also suggeststhat ferewithor contradictone another.Finally,
some personal identitiesmay representa we can investigate thedegreeto whichsome
generalview of the selfand thereforemay identities are moremalleablethanothers:for
pervadeall themembership groupsto which example,peoplemaybe morelikelyto adjust
one belongs. theirpersonidentitiesto adapt to situations
Identitytheorists conceptualizetheper- thanto modify morestructurally constrained
son identityin a mannersimilarto social role or groupidentities. We also can ex-plore
identitytheorists. The personidentityis the the directionof influenceof the different
set of meaningsthatare tied to and sustain identities. Forexample,personidentities may
theselfas an individual;theseself-meanings influence roleand groupidentities whenthey
operateacrossvariousrolesand situations in are firsttakenon. Once a roleor groupiden-
the same way as Deaux believesthatsome titybecomes established,however,person
person identitiespervade all the member- identities mayhavelittleimpact.
ship groups to which one belongs (Stets
1995; Stets and Burke 1996). Stets (1995) THE ACTIVATION OF IDENTITIES
attemptsto link person identitiesto role AND IDENTITY SALIENCE
identitiesby arguingthat the two may be
relatedthrougha commonsystemof mean- The secondarea relatedto linkingidenti-
ing:themeaningsofroleidentities mayover- ty theory withsocial identity pertainsto the
lap withthe meaningsof personidentities. activation of identities and the conceptof
Forexample,a masculinegender(role) iden- salience as used in each theory. How and
tityis linkedto themastery(person)identity when do identities become activated in a sit-
("I am a competentperson") throughthe uation? Social identity theorists originally
sharedmeaningof control.Therefore, when used thetermsalienceto indicatetheactiva-
one person acts to control another,this tion of an identityin a situation.A salient
actionis peformedin the serviceof both a social identity was "one whichis functioning
roleand a personidentity. Stetsobservesthat psychologically to increasethe influenceof
whenthemeaniings and expectationsassoci- one's membership in thatgroupon percep-
ated withrole identitiesconflictwiththe tion and behavior" (Oakes 1987:118). In
meaningsof person identities,individuals identity theory, saliencehas been understood
mayact withoutregardto therole identities as theprobability thatan identity willbe acti-
so as to maintainperson identities.Thus, vated in a situation (Stryker 1980). When
"whileroleidentities to
need be maintained, both definitions are considered in probability
personidentities also need to be maintained. terms,it appears thatsocial identitytheory
An individualcannot simplybe guided by uses onlythe probabilitiesof 0 and 1, while
role identitiesand have person identities identity theoryuses thefullrangeof proba-
unaffected by them.Overall,people need to bilities. We discusseach in turn.
balance the demandsof role identitieswith In social identitytheory,although a
the demands of person identities" (Stets salientidentity is an activatedidentity, schol-
1995:143). ars have been concernedwithunderstanding
Person identities penetrate role and whatmakesa particular socialcategorization
groupidentities in thesamewayas roleiden- of theself(or other)relevantin a situation.
titiesinfiltrategroup identities.If we can As Oakes (1987) pointsout,salienceis not

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aboutattention-grabbing propertiesofsocial individuals to accomplish their personal

stimuli, but about the psychological signifi- and/orsocial goals.It seemsironic,however,
canceofa groupmembership. Earlyworkon thatdespitethe focuson the activationof a
saliencefocusedon theseparatenessand the groupidentity, thesourceofsuchactivation is
clarityof the categories. This emphasislater leftto individualand situationalvariability
was translated intoa questionaboutthedis- and apparentlydoes not depend on social
tinctiveness ofsocialcategories. Forexample, structural characteristics.
minority status(McGuire,McGuire,Child, In identitytheory,scholarshave been
and Fujioka 1978) or relative numbers concernedmore about understandingthe
(Abrams,Thomas,and Hogg 1990) might effect ofpersons'positionsinthesocialstruc-
make a categorydistinctive. In eitherform, tureon thelikelihoodthatthosepersonswill
however,thisconceptionof whatinfluences activateone identity ratherthananother, and
thesalienceof a socialcategorydid nottake less abouttheimpactof theparticularsitua-
intoaccountanyoftherealitiesof thesocial tionon thatprocess.In connectionwiththis
context. Those realitiesweregeneralpercep- concern,theidea of commitment to an iden-
tualbiases;theywerenotfunctionally related titywas introduced into identitytheory.
to thesituationnorto theindividual'sbehav- Commitment has two aspects (Stryker,and
ior,goals,and motives. Serpe 1982,1994).The firstis quantitative-
BorrowingfromBruner(1957), Oakes the numberof personsto whomone is tied
(1987) discussesthenotionthatsalienceis a throughan identity. The morepersonsone is
productof accessibility and fit.Accessibility tiedto byholdingan identity (i.e.,thegreater
is the readiness of a given category to the embeddedness of the identityin the
become activatedin theperson.It is a func- socialstructure), themorelikelyitis thatthe
tionof the person'scurrenttasksand goals, identitywill be activatedin a situation.In
and of thelikelihoodthatcertainobjectsor brief,the strongerthe commitment,the
eventswilloccurinthesituation. As an exam- greaterthe salience.The secondcomponent
ple, Oakes statesthatthe "taxi"categoryis of commitment is qualitative-the relative
accessibleif one is in a hurryto get some- strengthor depth of the ties to others.
where(goal) and ifa taxistandis nearby(sit- Strongerties to othersthroughan identity
uational object).7 Fit is the congruence lead to a moresalientidentity. Whensalience
betweenthe storedcategoryspecifications is made to focuson itsprobabilistic nature,it
and perceptions ofthesituation. Fithas both becomesa characteristic of the identity, not
comparativeand normativeaspects.A social ofthesituation.
category hascomparative fitwhenan individ- Employingthisview,identitytheorists
ual perceiveswithin-group differences to be distinguish betweenthe probabilitythatan
less than between-groupdifferences(the identity willbe activated(salience) and that
meta-contrast principle)(Turneret al. 1987). an identityactuallywillbe playedoutin a sit-
A social categoryhas normativefitwhenan uation(activation).In contrast, socialidenti-
individualperceivesthatthe contentof the ty theorists have tended to merge the
categoryis definedalong stereotypical, nor- conceptsof activationand salience,and to
mativelinesas heldin theculture. equate them.By separatingactivationfrom
It is assumedthatsocial groupsare real salience,identitytheoristscan investigate
forindividuals whoidentify withthesegroups factorssuchas context(forexample,theexis-
to accomplishparticularpersonaland social tenceof an appropriaterole partner),which
goals.Oakes's extensionthusmakessalience activatean identity in thesituation, separate-
morethana cognitive-perceptual feature;itis ly fromfactorssuch as commitment, which
also tiedto thesocialrequirements ofthesitu- influencetheprobability thatan identity will
ation,andresultsfroman interaction between be playedout acrosssituations.
individualand situational The
characteristics. In anotherway as well,social identity
activationof an identity in a situationallows theorists and identity theoristshave differed
in theirviewsof salience.In identity theory,
7The source of an individual'sgoals and purposes saliencehas oftenbeen discussedin a relative
has generallynotbeen considered. way:two or more different identitieshave

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been examinedin lightofthedifferent social In social identitytheory,salience per-
structuralpositionsheldbyan individualand tainsto thesituationalactivationof an iden-
the possibleimpactof each on thatperson's tityat a particularlevel.A particularidentity
performance (Thoits1983,1986,1992).This becomes activated/salient as a functionof
notion, known as a salience hierarchy, theinteraction betweenthecharacteristics of
addresseswhichrole a personwillenactin a theperceiver(accessibility) and of thesitua-
situationwhenmore thanone role maybe tion(fit).Therehas been littleor no discus-
appropriate(Stryker 1968). sion about identities'creatingor modifying
Stryker also goes beyondtheimmediate situationsso as to guidebehavior.
situationby hypothesizing thatpeople will Althoughthesetwotheorieshaveviewed
seek out opportunitiesto enact a highly saliencein different ways,thedifferent ways
salientidentity. Thus it is not a matterof an are notmutuallyexclusive.Indeed,theymay
identitybeing activatedby a situation,but complementeach other. Identitytheory
ratherof a personinvokingan identity in a focuseson socialstructural arrangements and
situationand therebycreatinga new situa- thelinkbetweenpersons;socialidentity theo-
tion.For example,Strykerand Serpe (1987) ryfocuseson characteristics of situationsin
foundthatfirst-year collegestudentstended whichtheidentity maybe activated; both.the-
to decoratetheirroomsin the same fashion oriesacknowledge theimportance oftheindi-
as theyhad done at home,thusreminding vidual's goals and purposes. Thus an
themselvesand othersof theiridentity. This understanding oftheconditions fortheprob-
agentivecharacterof an identity has always abilityofand theactualactivation ofan iden-
been prominentin identitytheory(McCall titycan be found.Boththeoriesagreethatan
and Simmons 1978; Tsushima and Burke identity has no effectwithoutactivation. To
1999).The identities at thetopofthesalience examinethelikelihoodthatan identity willbe
hierarchyare more likelyto be activated activatedacrossmanysituations, researchers
independentof situationalcues.When acti- mustconsiderfactorssuch as the fitof the
vated,theyacton thesituationto accomplish identity to thesituation(thestimuli presentin
self-verification;in theprocesstheycreatea thesituationthatfitthecharacteristics ofthe
newsituation. identity),which has been emphasized in
In social identitytheory, identitiesalso social identity theory,as well as the individ-
are consideredin a relativewaybecause dif- ual's structuralembeddednessor commit-
ferentidentitiesare organizedin a hierarchy ment,as emphasizedbyidentity theory.
of inclusiveness. Threelevelsare generically
involved: a superordinate level such as COGNITIVE AND MOTIVATIONAL
"human," an intermediate level such as PROCESSES
"American,"and a subordinatelevelsuchas The thirdarea relatedto merging identi-
"southerner."The levels are floatingand tytheorywithsocial identity theoryinvolves
contextual, anddependon thesalienceofthe coreprocessesidentified in each ofthetheo-
different classifications (Turneret al. 1987). ries.The centralcognitiveprocessin social
At thelowestlevel,forexample,an individ- identity orseeing
theoryis depersonalization,
ual maysee herselfas a memberof a sorori- the self as an embodimentof the in-group
ty executive board, in contrast to other prototype(a cognitiverepresentation of the
membersof thesorority. At the nexthigher social categorycontaining themeaningsand
levelshe maysee herselfas a sorority mem- normsthatthe person associates withthe
ber,in contrastto othersororitiesin theuni- social category;Hogg et al. 1995)ratherthan
versity.At a stillhigherlevel she may see as a unique individual(Turneret al. 1987).8
herselfas at the "Universityof X," in con- Activationof a social identityis sufficient
trastto studentsfromanotheruniversity in a resultin depersonalization. In thisprocess,
particularcommunityor state. Different the person perceivesnormativeaspects of
identitiesbecome active as the situation
changesand as relevantstimuliforself-cate- 8
Depersonalizationalso denotes seeing the other
gorizationchange. as an embodimentof the out-groupprototype.

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
groupmembership in theprototype and then the self into line withthe abstractproto-
actsinaccordancewiththosenorms(Reicher type/identity standard(Freese and Burke
1987, 1996; Terry and Hogg 1996). 1994;Hogg,et al. 1995;Stryker 1980).
Depersonalization is thebasicprocessunder- In regardto the motivational underpin-
lyinggroupphenomenasuchas socialstereo- ningsof an identity, social identitytheory
typing,groupcohesiveness,ethnocentrism, holdsthatwhena groupidentity is activated,
cooperationand altruism, emotionalconta- people behave so as to enhancethe evalua-
gion, and collective action (Turner et al. tionofthein-grouprelativeto theout-group
1987). and therebyto enhancetheirownself-evalu-
Similar to depersonalizationin social ationas groupmembers(Turneret al. 1987).
identity theory,a centralcognitiveprocessin This process is the maintenance and
identitytheoryis self-verification, or seeing enhancement ofself-esteem. The self-esteem
the selfin termsof the role as embodiedin motiveinitially was thought to be thebasisof
theidentity standard(thecognitive represen- in-groupfavoritismand ethnocentrismas
tationof a rolecontaining themeaningsand well as of hostilitytowardthe out-group.
normsthatthe person associates withthe Althoughthisidea was centralto the initial
role; Burke 1991; McCall and Simmons formulation and development ofsocial iden-
1978).Whenan identity is activated, self-ver- titytheory(Abrams 1992), it has received
ificationoccurs.In thisprocess,the person mixedempiricalsupportand thushas been
behavesso as to maintainconsistency with downplayedin more recentwork(Abrams
the identitystandard(Burke 1991; Swann 1992;Abramsand Hogg 1990).9
1983). Self-verificationunderliesbehavioral As a substitute for the self-esteem
processessuchas roletaking, rolemaking, and motive,othermotiveshave been suggested,
groupformation as thepersonactsto portray includinga collective self-esteemmotive
theidentity (BurkeandCast 1997;Burkeand (Crockerand Luhtanen1990),a self-knowl-
Stets1999;Turner1962). edgemotive,a self-consistency motive,a self-
The processesof depersonalization and efficacy motive,(Abramsand Hogg 1990),an
showus thatmembership
self-verification in uncertaintyreductionmotive (Hogg and
anysocial groupor role includestwoimpor- Mullin 1999), and a self-regulation motive
tantaspects:one's identification witha cate- (Abrams1992,1994).Any of thesemotives
gory (emphasized more stronglyin the can be broughtintoplaywhentheidentity is
depersonalizationprocess),and the behav- activated and depersonalization occurs. With
iors that we associate with the category respect to the self-regulationmotive,for
(underscoredmorestrongly in self-verifica-example,Abramsarguesthatwhena social
tion).Both identification witha social cate- identity is salient(activated)and attendedto,
goryand role behaviorreferto and reaffirm responsesare deliberateand self-regulated.
social structuralarrangements. People know Groupmembersact to matchtheirbehavior
the structuralcategoriesand relationships, to thestandardsrelevantto thesocialidenti-
and act in accordancewiththatknowledge. ty,so as to confirm and enhancetheirsocial
Whenwe identity withthe social categories identification withthe group.All of these
thatstructure society,and whenwe behave suggestionsare new; as Hogg and Abrams
accordingto the expectationstied to our (1988) suggest,more researchis needed to
we are actingin thecontextof, examinetheefficacy
identification, ofeach inthecontextof
referring to,and reaffirming social structure socialidentity theory.
(ThoitsandVirshup1997).In thisway,a com- In earlierformulations ofidentity theory,
binationofthetwotheorieswouldrecognize motivationwas tied to commitmentand
thattheselfbothexistswithinsociety, and is salience.The greaterthe commitment to an
influenced by society, because socially identityand the greaterthe salience of the
definedshared meaningsare incorporated identity, the more effortwould be put into
intoone's prototypeor identity standard.In enactingthe identity(Stryker1980;Stryker
addition,it would recognize that the self
influencessociety, because individualagents 9 Below we suggestan alternativeformulationof
act bychangingsocial arrangements to bring thesourcesof self-esteemin social identification.

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and Serpe 1982).Self-esteem was implicated We argue that identitiesreferringto
as a motivator: insofaras an individualhad a groupsor rolesare motivatedbyself-esteem,
salientrole identity,the evaluationof his or self-efficacy, and self-regula-
herperformance wouldinfluencefeelingsof tion.Indeed,recentresearchinsocialidentity
self-esteem(Stryker1980). If the role was theoryand in identitytheoryappears to be
evaluatedpositively, theperson'sself-esteem movingin commondirections: bothare con-
wouldbe higher(Hoelter1986);iftheperson sideringmultiplemotivesthatlead one to act
performed well in therole,he or she would in keepingwiththatwhichmostclearlyrep-
feelgood,giventheappraisalsbyothersand resentsthegroupor role.In considering mul-
theirapproval (Franksand Marolla 1976). tiplesourcesof motivation, we mayfind,for
Self-efficacyalso was implicatedas a motiva- example,thatthe self-esteem motiveis tied
tor,however:a personwhoperformed wellin morecloselyto identification or membership
a rolegaineda senseofcontrolovertheenvi- in groups,while self-efficacy is associated
ronment(Franksand Marolla 1976; Gecas morecloselywiththe behavioralenactment
and Schwalbe 1983). These ideas are con- of identities.Individuals may categorize
firmedin recentresearchin identity theory, themselves inparticular ways(in a groupor a
showingthatself-esteem andself-efficacyare role) notonlyto fulfilltheneed to feelvalu-
increased by the self-verificationwhich able and worthy (theself-esteem motive)but
occurs through performinga role well also to feelcompetent and effective (theself-
(Burkeand Stets1999). efficacymotive)(Cast,Stets,and Burke1999;
Recent extensions of identitytheory Stets1997).
have added considerationof the internal The increasein self-worth thataccompa-
dynamicsof identityprocesses and have nies a group-basedidentity, however,may
includedmotivationalelementsof self-con- come not simplyfromthe act of identifying
sistencyand self-regulation(Burke 1991; withthe group,but fromthe group'saccep-
Burkeand Stets1999;Stets1997).Similarto tanceoftheindividualas a member(Ellison
the mechanismsunderlying perceptualcon- 1993). This pointmay partiallyexplainthe
troltheory(Powers1973),affectcontrolthe- mixed support for self-esteemeffectsin
ory (Heise 1979), self-verification theory socialidentity theory(Abrams1992;Abrams
(Swann 1983), and self-discrepancy theory and Hogg 1990).A social identitybased on
(Higgins1989) is theidea thatpeople act to membership in an abstractcategorymaynot
keep perceptionsof themselvesin thesitua- yieldthesupportand acceptanceprovidedby
tionconsistentwiththeiridentitystandard. a social identity based on membership in an
Theytake actionsto modifythesituationso actual group of interactingpersons. The
thatperceptionsof the self are consistent strongestconfirmation thatone is a group
withthe standardin spiteof situationaldis- membermaycome fromacceptanceby oth-
turbancescaused by others,prioractionsof ers in the group.Further,enhancementof
the self, or other situational influences one's self-worth throughgroupmembership
(Burkeand Stets1999). mayinvolveactingso as to promoteaccep-
As long as the identityis activated,the tancethroughappropriatebehavioralenact-
process described above is constant and ments;such behavior has implicationsfor
ongoing,linkingthe individualto the situa- fulfilling theneed to feelcompetent.
tion,and it has been viewed as part of the
self-verification process (Burke and Stets CONCLUSIONS
1999;Swann1983).Two different manifesta-
tionsofself-verificationexist.First,whendis- We beganwithan assertionthatidentity
turbanceschange the situationsuch that theoryand social identitytheorypossess
individualsperceivesituatedself-meanings similarities thatmake the linkingof thetwo
and expectationsof themselvesas different theoriesworthconsideration. Such a merger
fromtheiridentity standard,theyactto coun- wouldpreventredundancies in separatethe-
teractthe disturbance. Second,whenno dis- oriesand wouldbe a basis forestablishing a
turbancesoccur,individualsact consistently generaltheoryoftheself.To thisendwe have
withthemeaningsheldin theirstandards. consideredthreeareasofcentralconcern:the

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different bases of identity(group,role,per- At the microlevel,an analysis of the
son), the different fociin examiningactiva- group,therole,andthepersonmayhelpus to
tion and salience of an identity,and the understandmoreclearlysuch motivational
cognitiveand motivational underpinnings of processes as self-esteem,self-efficacy, and
thetwotheories. authenticity. It is possiblethatpeople largely
In spiteof theirdifferences in originsas feelgood aboutthemselves whentheyassoci-
well as in language,orientation, and cover- ate withparticular groups,typically feelcon-
age,thetwotheorieshave muchin common. fident about themselves when enacting
In mostinstances, thedifferences are a mat- particularroles,and generallyfeelthatthey
ter of emphasis ratherthan kind.For the are "real" or authenticwhen theirperson
most part,the differencesoriginatedin a identities are verified.
view of the group as the basis foridentity Yet,althoughthegroup,role,and person
(who one is) held by social identitytheory identities providedifferent sourcesof mean-
and in a viewoftheroleas a basisforidenti- ing,itis also likelythatthesedifferent identi-
ty (what one does) held by identitytheory ties overlap.Sometimestheymayreinforce
(Thoitsand Virshup1997).We suggestthat whoone is; at othertimestheymayconstrain
beingand doingare bothcentralfeaturesof the self.The conditionsunder whicheach
one's identity. A completetheoryof theself occurs are important topics for future
wouldconsiderboththerole and the group research.
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JanE. StetsisAssociateProfessor ofSociologyat Washington She is currently

usingrecentdevelopments in identity tostudypeople'semotionalreactionsto (in)justice
in a seriesof lab experiments (NSF SES-9904215).Recentpublicationsinclude"Trustand
Commitment through (withPeterA Burke)in Social PsychologyQuarterly
and "Does theSelfConform totheViewsofOthers?"(withAliciaD. Castand PeterJ.Burke)in
Social Psychology Quarterly.

PeterJ.Burkeis Professorand ResearchScientist at Washington and Chairof

theASA Social Psychology workextendsidentity
Section.His current intoareasofemo-
tion,grouprelations, Recentpublicationsinclude"WhereForward-looking
and social learning.
and Backward-looking Models Meet" (withL. Gray) in Computationaland Mathematical
Organization Theory,"Levels,Agency, (withT Tsushima)in
and ControlintheParentIdentity"
Social Psychology Quarterly,1999,and "Trustand Commitment through (with
J.Stets)in Social PsychologyQuarterly, 1999.

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