SOCIAL IDENTITY (fr. identité social, ger. soziale Identität) – the most common characteristic of an individual by one’s belonging to a social community or a group (gender, age, ethnic etc.) (Russian Sociological Encyclopedia, 1998)

Current social cognition research is based on two socio-psychological theories: H.Tajfel and J.Turner’s theory of social identity and Turner’s theory of self-categorization, which are based on E. Ericsson’s works respectively.

Ericsson viewed identity as a complicated multilevel formation, which on the highest social level defines identity as a construction of inner solidarity of an individual with the social group ideals and standards and adds to the self-categorization process (Ericsson, 1996).

Tajfel and J. Turner defined social identity as “those aspects of human reflection which come from the social categories one refers himself to”(Tajfel, Turner, 1979, P. 40).

Turner’s self-categorization theory bears upon the cognitive processes involved in the process of self-determination and self-interpretation. J. Turner admits that any one belongs to several social groups, in the theory he pays special attention to what makes a person identify oneself with a certain social category in a certain situation and what situational factors explain such “fluctuations”. In order to have the social identity as a dominant, intragroup differences must be greater than differences within the groups (the meta-contrast principle). Moreover, objective differences between groups must coincide with the expected stereotypic characteristics of the groups (the principle of standard conformity) (Turner, 1985).

Mobility and agility of social identity, its dependence on the context are highlighted in the theories mentioned above. It allows to consider this category as unstable.

Identity may be also viewed as a complexity of roles and statuses, formed accordingly to the social system. Communication, experience and speech are the most important constituents of this complexity (Schneider, 2001).

In the structure of social identity there are such core components as gender, ethnic, age and professional identity, for it is being within a group that gives the basis for categorization within the given parameters. (Mikhlyaeva, Rumyantseva, 2008)

In the modern science paradigm language is treated as a tool for the creation of social identity in the meaning of some reality in the process of communication.

Furthe reading

Микляева А. В., Румянцева П. В. Социальная идентичность личности: содержание, структура, механизмы формирования: Монография. – СПб.: Изд-во РГПУ им. А. И. Герцена, 2008. – 118 c.

Российская социологическая энциклопедия / под общ. ред. Г. В. Осипова. – М.: Норма-Инфра-М, 1998. – 672 с.

Шнейдер Л. Б. Профессиональная идентичность: Монография. – М.: МОСУ, 2001. – 272 с.

Эриксон Э. Детство и общество. Изд. 2-е, перераб. и доп. / пер. с англ. – СПб.: Ленато, АСТ, Фонд «Университетская книга», 1996. – 592 с.

Tajfel H., Turner J. C. An integrative theory of intergroup conflict // The social psychology of intergroup relations / Ed. W. G. Austin, S. Worchel. – Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole, 1979. – Р. 33–48.

Turner J. Social categorization and the self-concept: a social cognitive theory of group behaviour // Advances in Group Processes / Ed. E. Lawer. –1985. – Vol. 2. – Р. 77–121.

Maria Tomskaya

Translated by Kate Petrova