The Psychology of the Social Self

The Psychology of the Social Self

The Psychology of the Social Self

The Psychology of the Social Self

Synopsis

Leading theoreticians and researchers present current thinking about the role played by group memberships in people's sense of who they are and what they are worth. The chapters build on the assumption, developed out of social identity theory, that people create a social self that both defines them and shapes their attitudes and behaviors. The authors address new developments in the theoretical frameworks through which we understand the social self, recent research on the nature of the social self, and recent findings about the influence of social context upon the development and maintenance of the social self.

Excerpt

A core question in social psychology is why people associate with others. Historically, U.S. social psychologists have viewed people as motivated by the desire to exchange resources with others. This motivation is central to social exchange theory explanations of ingroup dynamics, which has argued that judgments about the values of the resources gained and lost through group membership shape both satisfaction in groups and behavioral choices among groups.

Similarly, in the study of intergroup dynamics, "realistic group conflict theory" has suggested that patterns of cooperation and competition in groups can be explained through an understanding of the patterns of resource interdependence among groups (Sherif, 1966). When groups need the same resources, competition develops. When groups can gain resources by working together, they cooperate. As with social exchange theory, the underlying assumption is that people in groups are motivated by the desire to maximize the attainment of resources, in this case for their group.

Beginning with the work of Tajfel (1981) and Turner (1975), the European development of social identity theory suggested a very different premise about people's motivations for interacting with others. Tajfel suggested that . . .

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