Group identification and its relation with our identity and self-concept

Psychology, and specially social psychology, has been interested in defining how are we, our feelings, and the manner in which we develop our self-concept, as an element that differences one person to other or, contrarily, identifies them with their reference groups. In order to reach a complete knowledge about how are people, self-concept is complemented with the feelings for our reference groups, how these groups influence our behaviour, beliefs and perceptions, that means, our social identity.

Identity and self-concept

Identity is a personal construction that is developed integrating identifications and not-identifications with other people and our reference groups. It is also a social construction generated through an internal assimilation of roles, and the reflection of the evaluations from others (Western & Heim, 2003). In this way, identity is understood as a knowledge that is built (Gaviria, Cuadrado & López, 2009).

Different theories have addressed self-concept and identity. Some authors consider them synonyms, nevertheless others consider identity more restrictive than self-concept, so that, self-concept encompasses several identities, while identity would not include various self-concepts.

Identity, as a construct, has been divided in different categories. Thus, in the last quarter of 20th century, two kinds of identities have been identified, which in turn gave rise to two kinds of self-concepts: personal identity, proposed for Tajfel y Turner (1979), and social identity, concept that gave rise to the social identity theory.

Both theories, although from different origins and core aspect, since 1980 have been related in several works and researches that share some interest about social identity. Since 90’s, starting from a double concept of social identity, there is a change toward a triple concept with Brewer and Gadner (1996), when they proposed a more general vision about self-concept that contemplates: individual self-concept; relational self-concept and collective self-concept.

Self-categorization theory (Turner, 1985)

This theory argues that people categorize themselves considering only their personal identity, when they perceive themselves different to the rest of humans. This need of self-categorization likes universal, but different studies have demonstrated that there are nuances whether individual comes from collectivist or individualist culture (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Páez et al., 2004; Singelis, 1994).

Social identity theory (Tajfel, 1972)

This theory has approached three basic concepts: social categorization, social identity and social comparison.

It is considered that subjects build their social identity through categorization by which subjects perceive themselves as belonging or not to different categories. Social identity would be understood as a part of individual self-concept, derived from the knowledge of belonging to a group or social groups, along with the emotional and evaluative meaning that this belonging entails (Tajfel, 1981). That knowledge of belonging and the evaluative meaning are reached through the third construct mentioned, that means, through processes of social comparison between the in-group and the out-group.

Identity fusion (Swann et al., 2009)

In the identity fusion study, it is proposed a form of union between personal and social identity. that implies a functional equivalence between them. Fusion entails a feeling of individual-group unity that distinguishes fused individuals of the individuals identified merely with the group. There are four principles that serve for distinguishing fusion from identification with a group (Gómez et al., 2013). In fusion it is observed:

  1. Strong feeling of personal agency, that can be observed in behaviours and control of own behaviour in favour of the group.
  2. Identity synergy, personal and social identity are combined synergistically in order to motivate the behaviour in favour of the group.
  3. Relationship loops, other members in the group are valued, not only for their belonging to the group, but for their personal features.
  4. Irrevocability, that means, when the fusion with the group is produced, the member stays fused.

In certain contexts, the connexion between individual and group is so great that the border between the self and the others is turned diffuse, considering the group like an externalization of the own individual. When this fusion is observed the individual can equate group well-being to the own well-being, perceiving that the goals and the priorities of the group are coincident with the own ones.

** for further information visit “enlaces” or directly in: Identity fusion and its influence in processes of remembrance


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