We all have an identity, or sense of self, that we use to define who we are. There are a number of factors that can contribute to the formation of our identities.
However, the two main factors are:
Both personal and group experiences help shape who we are, and how we think about ourselves.
Social Identity Theory is a theory stating that the portion of our sense of self that comes from groups can be reinforced the more we follow the norms and rules of whatever group we belong to.
As you learned in an earlier lesson, the groups we belong to are called in-groups. They contribute to how we define ourselves through an interest, goal, or value.
Our groups will have certain ways of doing things. The more we ascribe to those views, the more our sense of identity is derived from that in-group.
The out-group, on the other hand, is the group with which we do not identify ourselves as members.
The stronger our adherence to the norms and rules of our in-group, the more likely it is that we will compare that group to other groups.
This is because as human beings, we all want to have a good level of self-esteem; we want to feel good about ourselves.
If a large portion of our identity is coming from groups, then we're going to want to feel good about the groups we belong to, and thus the way we behave, and the rules and norms we follow.
We may then see our ways of doing things as better than the ways people in other groups do things. This intergroup comparison can lead to discrimination, which is one way that conflict can happen.
Because we're identifying with our groups, we see our groups as superior to other groups with which we don’t identify.
In this way, Social Identity Theory can help explain attribution bias, or this tendency to give more positive traits to our in-group, and more negative traits to the out-group.
Attribution bias is not Social Identity Theory; Social Identity Theory simply states that part of our identity comes from groups. It is because of that identification that attribution bias occurs.
As mentioned earlier, a portion of our identities do come from personal experiences. These are our own traits, the things that we like, or the way we are when we're by ourselves or relating individually to people we’re close to.
While some people have a very strong sense of personal identity, reinforcing most of who they are through personal traits, most people are constantly trying to find a balance between the group and the personal.
Our sense of identity comes from both, and the more strongly we reinforce our group norms, the more strongly we identify with the group.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.