Evaluate social identity theory, making reference to relevant studies.

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Evaluate social identity theory, making reference to relevant studies.

Social Identity theory proposes that individuals “strive to improve their self-image by attempting to enhance their self-esteem.” (Crane) Proposed by Tajfel and Turner in the 1970 and 80’s, this theory highlights social belonging and affiliation within successful groups in order to boost self-esteem.  Tajafel proposed that people within a group tend to show camaraderie within the individuals of their group, and view other people not in their group with hostility and apprehension. In essence, the individual does this because of the desire to belong and bond within the “in-group” and hence boosts his or her esteem. Yet, how effective is Tajfel’s theory of social identity?

Tajifel tested his theory in 1970, when he attempted to demonstrate that “categorizing people into groups is sufficient for people to discriminate in favour of their own group and against members of the other group.” (Tajfel, 1970) His test involved testing 64 boys on tasks such as estimating amounts of dots and also to determine how much money went to members within the in-group and out-group. He separated the boys into two groups based upon their preference to one of the two paintings. Tajifel was testing here perception and perceived-superiority of the in-group compared to the out-group people.  Tajifel’s data, which was that people award more money to in-group people than out-group people demonstrate that inter-group discrimination is prevalent; and that the mere act of categorization based merely on superficial factors such as a painting is sufficient to cause conflict and discrimination. Yet, why does this study support the theory of social identity? This study is a hallmark of the theory because the findings demonstrate the human behaviour of favouring his or her own “in-group,” which was in this case awarding more money to themselves, over the “out-group,” in which less money was awarded. Note that the out group was met with obvious hostility, as the test subjects deliberately awarded them less money compared to their own group. Hence, Tajifel’s 1970 study on social identity generally supports the theory.

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The concepts of “in-groups” and “out-groups” were also highlighted very strongly; in fact, it was the basis of the Levine et al study in 2005, in which football supporters of a certain team at the venue were tested the extent they would help people, whether in-group or out-group. Levine wished to demonstrate how humans associate with people of the same “in-group” compared to people of the “out-group.” Levine discovered that the supporters tended to help people if they were “in the same group as the supporters” (determined by the jersey the “victim” was wearing) more than people who were wearing ...

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