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PhD ceremony Ms. R. van Veelen: Integrating I and we. Cognitive routes to social identification

When:Th 31-10-2013 at 12:45

PhD ceremony: Ms. R. van Veelen, 12.45 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Integrating I and we. Cognitive routes to social identification

Promotor(s): prof. S. Otten

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Identification with groups provides people with safety, self-definition and, self-esteem. In today’s increasingly complex and diverse society, social identification also forms the social glue that binds people together. Yet despite this indisputable relevance, remarkably little is known about how people identify with groups. From a cognitive perspective, social identification denotes a certain amount of overlap between the mental representation of the self and the group. Yet how does this self-group overlap emerge? And does this vary across different social contexts? In this dissertation I aim to unravel the cognitive mechanisms explaining how people identify in different social contexts.

Adopting a multi-method approach, the studies in this dissertation form the empirical basis for a Cognitive Dual-Pathway Model to Social Identification. Specifically, the model demonstrates that not only people’s assimilation to group stereotypes (self-stereotyping) but also people’s projection of personal self-attributes onto a group (self-anchoring) can form a basis for social identification. This finding implies that social identification does not necessarily rely on group members’ perceived similarity or prototypicality, but can also be based on the individual self. Further application of the model shows that the cognitive processes underlying successful identification vary between social contexts. Specifically, among newcomers or in ill-defined groups self-anchoring positively instigates social identification, while self-stereotyping does so among well-established group members or in well-defined groups. In diverse groups, minority members’ identification benefits most from self-anchoring relative to self-stereotyping. I conclude that advanced insight in how people identify relies on an integrated focus on the social and personal self.

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