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describe two different methods that have been used to study the concept of identity, and comment on their contribution to our understanding of identity.

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Introduction

Describe two different methods that have been used to study the concept of identity, and comment on their contribution to our understanding of identity. Identity could be regarded as a fixation on thinking about who we are. A concern with our identities concentrates on what it is that makes us individuals, and so unique amongst other humans. Identity is an area of psychology principally concerned with understanding people and their lives, and can be understood as our own theory of ourselves and how we describe and define ourselves. Theories of identity are concerned with differences among people, and aim to explain identity by defining the processes that produce it. They therefore address the issue of what it is that makes us uniquely ourselves in comparison with others. As a topic it raises questions about whether our identities stay the same and 'fixed' throughout our lives, or whether we evolve over time. In addressing these issues, psychologists use a variety of techniques and tools for gathering and/or analysing data when carrying out their research. ...read more.

Middle

63). A striking feature of this finding is that they did this despite the fact that as individuals they had nothing to gain (since they could not award points to themselves). Tajfel and his colleagues discovered that even if differences between groups were small, intergroup discrimination still occurred. Tajfel argued that these findings demonstrated that simply categorizing individuals into groups was sufficient to generate prejudice between the groups. He claimed that people try to maintain positive social identities in comparison with members of other groups and that we strive to have a sense of belonging to groups that we consider to have a more positive image and higher status (as cited in Phoenix, 2007 p. 64). As such, we allow outgroups to be theorized as inferior. SIT maintains that prejudice and discrimination stems from an inevitable drive towards attaining an esteemed social identity[RBB1]. Psychologists who carry out subjective research collect insider accounts and symbolic data with the goal of exploring and understanding people's experiences. ...read more.

Conclusion

In an area such as identity it is often assumed that in order to understand people's identities we need to use insider accounts: that is, people's accounts of their own experience of their identities. However, the outsider viewpoint is also used, as is the case of the experimental methods that test theories of SIT. Psychological theories such as SIT and social constructionism which aim to access identities in their social and historical contexts have progressed forward through methods such as social categorisation experiments and analyses of oral and written discourse. As a result, theories of identity have developed and advanced through the use of both quantitative research methods of the scientific tradition, and qualitative research methods used in the hermeneutic approach. We are provided with a wealth of insight to experiences and beliefs regarding our understanding of identity, and what it is that makes us, as human beings, different from each other and other animals. (1043 words) [RBB1]Good summary of key findings based on SIT ingroup/outgroup experimental studies. You could also mention Jane Elliott's natural experiment with brown eyes/blue eyes here, which also supports SIT. 1 ...read more.

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