Finding Your Place
Hi everyone! Have you ever wondered about yourself? Maybe some questions such as, why am I the way that I am? What makes me, ME? Why do I choose to surround myself with the people that I do? So many people try to figure out others around them and try to get to know others. But first, you have to get to know yourself! Social Identity Theory helps us do just that. This newsletter will dive into key components of Social Identity theory and how it helps you navigate groups in your life based on your identities!
A simple way to look at social identity theory is that we unconsciously separate everyone into “them” and “us.” Everyone has their own in groups and out groups based on their social identity. Some examples of social identities could be race, gender, religion, social class, the list goes on and on. In groups could also be as simple as what sports you play, what grade you’re in, where you work etc. Within social identity theory is the term “stereotyping.” Stereotyping has a very negative connotation. While sometimes it is negative, it can also be positive. Social identity theory states that our mind since the beginning works by putting people in groups. Stereotyping highlights the differences between different groups and the similarities as well. It helps you find your place to fit in. There are three stages to social identity theory. The first stage we enter is categorization. This is where we mentally put people and ourselves into different categories and groups. Our brain does this to help us understand people and to better understand ourselves and where we belong. If we categorize people, then our brain has mental notes of what we know about that specific group of people. It helps us quickly gather knowledge and information on what we think that person would most likely be like. From that, we also find out things about ourselves when we put ourselves into categories. It helps us know how to act in different groups and find a sense of belonging. The next step we enter is social identification. Once we have placed ourselves in this group, we then begin taking on the identity of this group. This is our in-group. We adopt the norms of this group. Being a part of this group molds you into who you are as a person. As human beings we all want to belong and be a part of something. Social identification helps you find that true sense of belonging. The final stage we enter is social comparison. Now that you realize your group, your brain will automatically be comparing yourself to other groups. Self esteem is very essential for our well being. In order to maintain a good sense of self esteem we compare ourselves in groups to other groups and like to keep ourselves in line and favorable. There is a fine line for the comparison stage. If this stage is taken too harshly it can lead to negative outcomes such as prejudices.
Find Your Group!
Social Identity is very crucial. It is so important to know who you are and find that sense of belonging. Some people grow up in small towns, or towns and schools of predominantly one in group usually being race, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientation etc. Yes, you could still have social groups that you’re a part of such as sports teams or clubs etc, but missing a true piece of your identities in a group can be very hard on a person. At the University of Missouri, people come from all different backgrounds. This can be very overwhelming for some people, trying to find a whole new group and place to fit in. It is also a blessing for people who truly never had an in group before, now they finally see so many people just like them and can get their true sense of belonging. Mizzou offers so many different resources for people to fulfill their social identities. They have many different centers where people in the same groups can all come together and connect and be able to fully form their social identity. There are also many different clubs to join and there’s even a center that helps you find your perfect fit as well and develop that sense of belonging. Below I have linked the website to these resources and a couple examples to help you find your true social identity.
https://multiculturalcenter.missouri.edu/ Multicultural Center
https://getinvolved.missouri.edu/involvement-consultations/ Involvement Ambassadors — To help you find your right fit
https://lgbtq.missouri.edu/ LGBTQ Center
https://womenscenter.missouri.edu/ Women’s Center
https://diversity.missouri.edu/offices-centers/sdai/social-justice-department/gaines-oldham-black-culture-center/ Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center
Let’s Not Assume Things
One thing to keep in mind with social identity theory is that it can have some negative side effects. Social identity theory’s third step is social comparison. This is where it can get a little messy. During social comparison you are analyzing each different group. Picking out the differences and each group and how they compare and contrast. You are also comparing yourself in groups to the others and in a sense of self esteem, you want your group to be superior. This draws a fine line. When a group gets too headstrong they can become rivals or create a harsh line between them and an out-group. This is referred to as prejudice. And remember when I talked about stereotypes? That tricky line not to cross comes in here as well. We create stereotypes to try and identify what we know about people quicker, but some of those stereotypes can become very negative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS2Ozgx-ih8 In this clip from the television show The Office, Michael shows many different versions of stereotyping based on groups. Stanley is African American and in Michaels grouping in his mind, he thinks all African Americans are good at basketball so he picked Stanley to play. It then shows Stanley not being a good basketball player or athlete. Michael’s reaction is very shocked and angry that Stanley is not good because he stereotyped all African Americans to be good at basketball. He also does not let Phyllis ever play because she is a female. His grouping and stereotypes are that females are not good at sports. Michael also does not let Kevin play because he is overweight then at the end of the episode they show clips of Kevin playing and he is one of the best players. Stereotypes can be a good thing because they allow us to quickly categorize people without getting to know them too much. This clip shows the negative side of stereotypes and that you cannot just assume things about people. Even though someone is part of an in-group, that is not everything about them and they do not meet all qualities that some people in those groups may have. We all must do our best to set aside negative stereotypes and not assume things about people just based on their social identities and groups.
My Body is My Art
One example of stereotyping is people with tattoos. This has become a very hot topic of discussion in today’s society. Many workplaces still haven’t become open minded about tattoos. Some jobs, even if it is 90 degrees outside, will force you to wear long sleeves and pants to cover up your tattoos. Tattoo artists or just people with tattoos get put into a group that they are not even part of. People see others with tattoos and automatically make judgements and put them into groups just because of ink on their body. This clip talks about all the different groups they have been put into when they are nowhere close to this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4arisIWjrU0
This video is super important for everyone to watch. It emphasizes that we need to be cautious of automatically putting people in a group just because of one characteristic about them.
Let’s Put What We Have Learned To Use!
Here are 3 tips that you can think about to try to help yourself from negative stereotyping or prejudices.
- Educate yourself. Learn about groups that you are not a part of. This can help you realize deeper meanings behind why people do things or why they are the way that they are.
- Expand your horizons. Just because you are not a part of a certain group does not mean you cannot interact with them. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself.
- Ask Questions. There truly never was a dumb question. Before assuming things, just ask. It never hurts and it can help stop you from making negative assumptions.
All In All
I hope everyone has learned a little something from this newsletter. Social identities are super important to know. It helps you become the person that you are and feel a true sense of belonging. It can also help you realize the social norms around you and help you act off of them. It is important to remember that your identity can always evolve and change. You do not have to be stuck in a group that you do not feel a part of anymore. Growing is okay and normal. Just remember to stop before you make an assumption about someone.
On a lighter note!
If you are like me, and physically cannot sit through an entire movie, I have the movie for you! I constantly am either struggling to pay attention or getting bored and confused throughout movies. The other day I was scrolling through Netflix and saw The Weekend Away. I AM OBSESSED! It kept my attention the entire time. Just when you think you know what’s coming next, BAM another twist! If you want a movie that has you literally and physically on the edge of your seat, The Weekend Away is the movie for you. Till next time!
Scheifele, Carolin, et al. “Testing the Basic Socio‐structural Assumptions of Social Identity Theory in the Gender Context: Evidence from Correlational Studies on Women’s Leadership.” European Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 51, no. 7, Dec. 2021, pp. 1038–60. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/10.1002/ejsp.2746.
“The Dynamics of Social Identity: Evidence from Deliberating Groups.” Political Psychology, vol. 43, no. 2, Apr. 2022, pp. 237–54. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/10.1111/pops.12749.
Verkuyten, Maykel. “Group Identity and Ingroup Bias: The Social Identity Approach.” Human Development (0018716X), vol. 65, no. 5/6, Nov. 2021, pp. 311–24. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/10.1159/000519089.