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Summarise two different psychological approaches to identity. How has each been used to further our understanding of this concept?

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Summarise two different psychological approaches to identity. How has each been used to further our understanding of this concept? Our identities incorporate self-evaluation of physical, social and psychological attributes and it is through these interrelated components that we build a concept of who we are, and our uniqueness in comparison to other people. The study of identity has yielded psychological theories that help explain its impact through different approaches and emphasis on either the contribution of an individual core identity or higher group levels. Erik Erikson was the first theorist to recognize the influential importance of the surrounding environment on identity formation and the psychosocial theory he supported suggested links between the social context and the individual's core identity. These identities are generally stable and consistent and encompass our values and our place in society through a connectedness with a group's ideals and a conscious sense of individuality. The resultant sense of continuity that associates us with the past and provides direction for the future does not make for a rigid and unchangeable identity but rather developmental progression over a lifetime divided into eight stages. ...read more.


Psychosocial theory is useful in understanding identity particularly with respect to teenage behaviour during the adolescent stage. Alliance with the groups values combined with a frightening identity crisis can lead to a defensive over-affinity with the group thus explaining the cliques often seen in this age group. With the loss of identity, teenagers can become threatened by outsiders of the group and Erikson noted tendencies towards behaviours that were 'remarkably clannish, intolerant and cruel in their exclusion' (as cited in Phoenix, 2007 p.56) possibly explaining the prevalence of bullying. Despite Erikson's observations with adolescents, support for the identity crisis is not widespread nor experienced by many of that group (as cited in Phoenix, 2007 p.56). In the search for identity, the moratorium has intuitive appeal but in reality is not equally applicable as important aspects of identity at the group level are not addressed by psychosocial theory. It is unlikely that a physically disabled adolescent tries out the social role of an able bodied person before finding their niche. Social Identity Theory addresses some of the limitations of psychosocial theory by approaching identity in terms of affiliation with a group and has this theory has additionally been supported by experimental evidence. ...read more.


Despite not being able to benefit from the points and the groups being of an artificial nature, the participants consistently discriminated against out-groups and adopted strategies that would increase the differential between the groups displaying a sense of belonging to their assigned groups. Social Identity Theory applies these findings to wider groups arguing that society is categorised based on comparisons of status and power that have the potential to divide along racial, economic, and gender lines. As a perceived inferior group member, prejudicial experiences can drive improvements in social standing but like the moratorium of psychosocial theory, social mobility is limited by the reality of identity. Social Identity Theory does account for social change without discarding the inferior group through creativity, where devalued groups can be redefined or competition, where new ways of thinking about social groups demands alternative categorisation. Identity is a complex and diverse concept and theorists differ with regard to the relevant contribution of personal or social factors to identity development. Both the theories analysed in this essay have highlighted the importance that identity can have on further development by providing insight to the affect that identity has on behaviour and actions. ...read more.

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