Classicstudy: The model of the minimalgroup paradigmIn the classical experiment of the minimalist model,Tajfel and his colleagues (Tajfel, Flament, Billig and Bundy, 1971) tried toexplain why there was competition between groups without any real conflict ofinterest. This experiment examined the minimum conditions necessaryfor the emergence of team competition. The results were shocking: the existenceof single teams, whether they make sense for someone or not, is enough todiscriminate.
Specifically, the participants in the experiment were given the instructionthat they participated in a decision-making study. After completing a test thatsupposedly measures their aesthetic preferences, they were divided into twogroups: Klee and Kandinsky. In fact, the ranking was random. Participants knewwho they belonged to, while others knew only one code number and the group theybelonged to. Each participant in the experiment was asked to share points inpairs of other participants. One member of the couple belonged to the samegroup as the respondent and the other to the other group. For graduation, theparticipants had to choose a pair of numbers from the tables prepared by theresearchers.
The most reasonable would be to expect the points to beshared equally between the two teams. However, the results showed thatparticipants tended to give more points to their group than to members of theother group, favoring their team members. These experiments have shown that asimple categorization, even if based on an arbitrary and irrelevant criterion,is capable of discriminating.
The theory ofsocial identity: Belonging to the groupThe crucial role of social categorization in intergroupbehavior, as evidenced by the research of the minimal groups, led to thedevelopment of the concept of social identity by Tajfel and Turner(Tajfel, 1974; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This simple idea has developed andevolved over the years to become perhaps the most prominent contemporarysociopsychological analysis of group processes, intergroup relationships andcollective self – the theory of social identity.Based on the assumption that society is structured indistinct social groups that are in power and status relationships between them(e.g. blacks and whites in the United States, Catholics and Protestants inNorthern Ireland, Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq), a precondition to socialidentity is that social categories (large groups such as a nation or church,but also intermediate groups such as an organization, or small groups such as aclub) provide their members with a social identity – one defining andevaluating what is someone and a description and assessment of what thisentails.Social identity does not only describe features, it isvery important that it also dictates what one has to think and how to behave asa member. For example, being a member of the “Gypsies” group meansthat you are not only defining and evaluating yourself and being defined andevaluated by others as a gypsy, but also thinking and behaving in typical gypsyways.Social identity consists of “those aspects of a person’s self-imagethat originate from the social categories in which the individual feels itbelongs” (Tajfel & Turner, 1979, p.
40). Social identity is that partof self-perception that stems from belonging to the group. It is associatedwith group and group behaviors that have some general characteristics:ethnocentrism, intragroup favor, bomber differentiation, intra-group norms,intragroup solidarity and consistency, self-perception, members of the groupand members of the group in terms of relevant group stereotypes.
Social-and personal identityThe self-perception of the individual, namely hisidentity, consists of his personal identity, which contains the particular(idiosyncratic) characteristics of the individual (e.g. friendly, calm, likesspicy foods, is married to X, loves them two children and his parents, etc.
)and his social identity, based on the social categories he belongs to.Personal and social identity are not mutually exclusiveconcepts, but they are the two poles of a continuous one. If circumstances makepersonal identity distinct, the individual focuses on the characteristics thatdifferentiate him from other people and exhibits individual behavior. While theconditions make the social identity clear, the individual focuses on thecharacteristics that differentiate the group that belongs to other relevantout-groups and exhibits group behavior.At this point, it must be made clear that the physical presence of otherindividuals or groups is not necessary to trigger a person’s personal or socialidentity. The “others” either as individuals or as groups are always”cognitive” present and so individual or group behavior can evenoccur when one is alone.
For example, one reads a novel where the drunken andpitiful central hero deceives his wife, and thinks he is completely differentand smiles happy, giving a kiss to his wife. The novel activated the person’spersonal identity as an exemplary spouse and led him to individual behavior.Someone else watches on TV a football match between the supporting team and thetraditional opponent. When a goal is scored, the team celebrates and when agoal is scored, the opposing team uses the most serious qualifiers for theplayers and the referee. The football match triggered the individual’s socialidentity as a fan of the particular group, and both celebrations and insultsare group behavior.
However, social identity is quite separate from personalidentity, which, as we have said, is that part of self-perception stemming frompersonal characteristics and idiosyncratic personal relationships that we havewith other people (Turner, 1982). Personal identity is not associated withgroup and group behaviors – it is linked to interpersonal and individualbehavior. People have a repertoire of so many social and personal identities asare the groups with which they are identified, or the close relationships andidiosyncratic attributes under which they define themselves.Nevertheless, although we have many distinct social and personalidentities, we are subjectively experiencing ourselves as a single integratedperson with a continuous and uninterrupted biography – the subjectiveexperience of the self in the form of fragmentary and inconsistent self may beproblematic and associated with various psychopathologies.
The approach of social identity distinguishes social from personal identityin a conscious attempt to avoid the interpretation of group and inter-groupprocesses in terms of personality traits and interpersonal relationships.Social theorists believe that many socio-psychological theories of groupprocesses and team relationships are limited because they interpret phenomenaby summing up the effects of personality preconditions or interpersonalrelationships. Social identity and intergroup relationsIn seeking a positive social identity, groups andindividuals can adopt a range of different strategies, the choice of which isdetermined by people’s beliefs about the nature of the relationships between theirown and other groups.The choice of social identity management strategy is a function of theperception of the members of a group regarding the “social climate”that characterizes the bumblebee situation.
The perception of the socialclimate depends on the assessment of three factors (socio-structuralvariables):(1) ofthe permeability of the boundaries between the intergroup and the out-group(2) thestability of the intergroup position in the foreseeable future(3) thelegality of the system of allocation of seats Socialidentity theory: Structures of beliefs and strategies for improving social identity These beliefs, which may or may not be in line with thereality of intergroup relationships (they are ideological constructions), rely inprinciple on whether it is possible, as a person, to “pass” from alower status group and gain acceptance to a higher status group. A system ofsocial mobility beliefs inhibits group action on the part of subordinate groupsand, on the contrary, encourages individuals to detach themselves from thegroup and try to gain acceptance for themselves and their immediate familywithin the dominant group.Belief in social mobility is complied with scrupulouslyin Western democratic political systems. Where people believethat intergroup boundaries are impenetrable to any “passage”,there is a system of beliefs of social change (e.
g., the Hindu caste system inIndia). Under these circumstances, positive social identity can only beachieved through forms of group action, and the type of action is influenced bywhether the status quo (the existing status and power hierarchy) is perceivedas safe or precarious. If the status quo is stable, legal, and therefore safe,it is difficult to capture an alternative social structure (i.
e. there are nocognitive alternatives), let alone a path to real social change.Groups tend to adopt strategies of social creativity:Ø Theycan engage in intergroup comparisons on prototype or unorthodox dimensions thattend to favor the subordinate group. For example, Lemaine (1966, 1974) askedchildren to engage in a team competition to build the best hut and found thatthe groups that had been given worse construction materials and therefore wereunable to defeat advanced by emphasizing how much had nicely made the garden.
Ø Theymay attempt to change the consensual value attributed to intragroup features(for example, through the slogan “black is beautiful”).Ø Theycan compare themselves with other groups of low or lower status (e.g.,”racism of the poor-white”),Where social change is linked to the recognition that thestatus quo is not legal and is unstable and therefore precarious, and wherethere are cognitive alternatives (i.e.
alternative social structures can beunderstood and achieved), then there is direct social competition – directcollective conflict (e.g. political action, collective protest, revolutions,war).
Social movements systematically emerge under suchconditions (e.g. Klandermans, 1997).