April 21, 2014
Indiana University Purdue University- Columbus
“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic!” “Hey, buddy, you’re not pretending anymore. You’re plastic. Cold, shiny, hard plastic!” Sometimes in life, we feel the need to belong, especially when it comes to belonging to certain groups. There is no better time or example for this than high school. High school is full of cliques; groups upon groups of individuals who identify with each other. The most common of these cliques can be summed up to “band geeks”, “popular kids”, “jocks”, “choir kids”, and most common in the state of Indiana, “hicks”. Those associated with each group identify themselves as a part of the group, as well as those within the group. Individuals immerse themselves within a group, and as they become a part of the group, they begin to identify more and more with the group, and begin to mold to fit the group. Social Identity Theory goes on to perfectly explain these cliques we have encountered and come to know, and the phenomena of wanting to fit in and belong to these groups.
In my paper I will explain Social Identity Theory (SIT) in detail, discussing its origin, basic aspects, and how scholars have expanded the theory. I will then go on to apply the theory to one of the most widely known films of my generation, Mean Girls. The film is a perfect example of the theory, displaying groups and how we mold ourselves to fit into and identify with these groups.
Social Identity Theory was first developed by Henri Tajfel in the 1970s. The theory came from his personal interest in social perception and categorization, as well as intergroup conflict. A textbook definition of SIT is noted as, “a social psychological analysis of the role of self-conception in group membership, group processes, and intergroup relations,” (Hogg, 2006 p.111). In layman’s terms, this theory can be defined as one’s perception of their identity and how they see themselves within a group. In the text, Social Identity and Intergroup Relations, edited by Tajfel, the author goes on to explain the Social Identification Model (SIM, another coined term for SIT), “it (SIM) considers that individuals structure their perception of themselves and others by means of abstract social categories, that they internalize these categories as aspects of their self-concepts,” (Turner, 1982). When it comes to SIT, individuals look at and identify themselves by their knowledge of social groups and statuses. Referring to the high school analogy, when it came to cliques, we looked at each group and used the definition of these groups to define ourselves and identify ourselves. Turner goes on to explain that social categories, such as race, gender, religion, political affiliation, etc., can help assess this identification and membership to specific social groups. He also notes that there are terms on a more personal level, “such as feelings of competence, bodily attributes, ways of relating to others, psychological characteristics, intellectual concerns, personal tastes, and so on,” (Turner, 1982) that assist in this social identification.
There are some basic aspects and assumptions
There have been some expansions of Social Identity Theory. One of them is Self-Categorization Theory. This theory was coined and developed by Tajfel’s partner, Turner. Self-Categorization Theory (SCT) shares the same idea as SIT, but in SCT, “social identity is seen as the process that changes interpersonal to inter-group behavior,” (Bryant & Vorderer, 2006). Self-Categorization Theory expands on SIT by not just stating that individuals identify themselves based on the group in which they belong, but once included in the group, they categorize where they belong in the group, and “how we group people in our heads,” (Carmon, 2013). Self-Categorization gives individuals a sense of