Social Identity Theory Essay
Social Identity Theory
Although there are some members of the IMML group that are as foreign to us as the BBA’s, we feel more comfortable working with IMML’s because they have the same behavioural characteristics as us, as well as sharing common goals. Tajfel suggests that a reason for this is the need to treat the ‘team’s values as our own’. Examples of this include: the aim of finding a placement or business school in our respective countries, with a well respected degree in a relatively unique course from a renowned university.
Concerns about placements cross language boundaries, and unites all IMMLs. A group ” thinks and behaves in characteristically design team ways”3. This supports the social identity theory of when IMML first attended the Organizational Behaviour lecture of semester 2 with Kate McArdle. Throughout the past 2 years it has become acceptable to enter the management classes late, strolling slowly to the seat and even talking or waving to friends while the class has already started. However, when Kate McArdle started teaching the course this norm was not acceptable to her.
By trying to change the group norm (apologising if late), IMML had temporarily modified their behaviour: the number of students being late was reduced, and if they were late they apologised out of courtesy to the entire class. However, when Foster Fei started teaching the class in Week 5, IMML reverted back to their initial behaviour. We can thus say that in this case it is difficult, almost impossible, for the minority to impose a change on a majority, especially if that norm has had time to evolve for 2 years.
If a group majority were to accept the new group norm, they must all conform to the new norm. In summary we can say that because the majority of the IMML course was not convinced of the necessity of being on time, Kate McArdle only changed the group norm temporarily. * FIMML. GIMML. SPIMML. According to Tajfel “in order to evaluate their own opinion and abilities, individuals not only compare themselves to other individuals with whom they interact, but also compare their own group with similar and distinct, out groups.
“4 After the exam results were released, one characteristic of the members in FIMML was that they then tried to compare their results with others in their small seminar group, and secondly in a more general way against the other language groups. This comparison produced concrete (if biased i. e. ask the people you know will have the results to back up your stereotypes and our assertions of other groups) evidence to reinforce the stereotypes of the other groups and emphasizes our opinion of our group being superior.
This minimises the perceived difference in the in-group (seminar B) and maximises the difference from the out-group (IMML as a whole) Cross theory example One student, Harry*, who joined group B at its formation was fluent in French. At the start of the year he spoke often in class, offered answers almost constantly and talked very quickly. This was not very well received by the group at first. The student realised this and decided to answer only when no one else did. According to Tajfel: this was so that others could have a chance.
Harry sacrificed his own interests for the good of the group as a whole. This shows how Harry moved from thinking individually (personal identity), doing what benefited him, to “feeling and thinking as a representative of a group”. This also complies with Asch’s theory about how groups influence individual attitudes and behaviour. “Observing norms is of such benefit to us that we are prepared to suppress any personal desires and are thus willing to limit our individual freedom and abide by them”5.
Harry therefore supports both the theory of Tajfel as well as Asch’s. As a second example of this we refer to an IMML Spanish student, Steve*, who came into the IMML French group in the second year. The French group felt that the new student was violating pivotal norms of our group. Such norms were: speaking a lot during the classes; criticising teachers; and overtly expressing his opinions without taking other’s opinions into consideration.
His norms could either derive from the norms he had learned in his first year in the Spanish group, or due to his individual differences that he has gained through his culture, since his French nationality is exceptional to that of the group. After being in the French IMML group for a few weeks, there was tension between the new student and his language group, whereas the seminar group B didn’t seem affected by the new presence because the new student was not in the same group. This example disproves Asch’s theory.
The new student didn’t conform to the group pressure put upon him. In our opinion, his judgement and actions were not affected, even when the group vocalised their general disagreement to him being there. Neither did the group break up as a result of this. * Small (formal & informal) Groups In this section of the essay we will use the example of Steve again because he is relevant for this part as well. However, we will do this in the context of small informal or formal groups looking at it from a whole different angle.
“As long as individuals see themselves as more important than the group, then the latter cannot function effectively”. 6 Steve joining the French group lowered our self-awareness and heightened our group awareness. The group has had no influence over his behaviour and showed animosity to him by for example sighing or laughing when he talks. This is the case even now, 6 months after his coming into FIMML. He did not adapt to the norm of the group. Perhaps this insinuates that Steve does not see IMML as one of the groups that form his social identity.
In this way he would not be influenced by the group, conform to it or attempt to convert the group to his way of thinking as it bears little or no importance on his self concept, and furthermore his social identity. In not recognising IMML as a key part of this social identity he does not feel that it is necessary to conform to the behaviour. Steve’s action supports Tajfel’s theory as mentioned above. This could be due in part to our perception of his elitist attitude, where he feels superior to the rest, stopping the group from functioning. Group members even left his class.
For us to conform to him, we feel that he would have to conform to us first. We could perhaps propose therefore that established groups do not conform to newcomers, but rather newcomers conform to previously established groups. When he joined seminar group A, he changed the group norms. He had an outspoken personality and his loud confident attitude contradicted the previously quiet oral class. At first this resulted in others leaving the group, but the remaining students still did not conform to him and so eventually he was forced to leave. As soon as he left, the other group members returned.