Social Identity Theory

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7. Evaluate Social Identity Theory, making reference to relevant studies Social Identity theory was developed by Tajfel (1979) to explain the relationship between social groups. Tajfel believed that social identity is the part of one’s self concept that is driven from the membership of a certain social group they belong to, which also contribute to one’s self-esteem. Examples of social identities may include racial group, nationality, social group and sports group. The three fundamental cognitive processes underlying social identity theory include categorization of our groups and other groups, identification of ourselves with the values and behavior of our groups, and comparison between us and other groups. The strength of Social Identity theory help explain our need to form social identities even only with minimum in common with the rest of the group. Tajfel’s (1971) ‘Minimal Group Study’ demonstrated this effect on Bristol schoolboys. The schoolboys were randomly assigned to two different groups, but they believed that they had been assigned to either of the groups because they had either over estimated or underestimated the dots shown on a screen. Tajfel found that the boys would try to maximize the difference between their group to the other group as a priority over gaining more points for their own group. This study showed how the Social Identity theory plays a role in our decision making and self identification according to the social groups that we are in. The Social Identity theory had also been successfully applied to numerous phenomenas associated with social psychology and helped to explain behaviors such as stereotyping, prejudice, and hostility. Reicher (1984) supported the ideas of social identity theory with his study of the riots in the mainly Afro-Caribbean area of St Paul’s in Bristol. After focusing mainly on the specific targets of the
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