Social Psychological Debates about Identity
We live in an ever-changing social world, which constantly calls forth changes to our identities and actions. Advances in science, technology and medicine, political upheaval, and economic development are just some examples of social change that can impact upon how we live our lives, how we view ourselves and each other, and how we communicate. Social change can result in the salience and visibility of particular social categories, changes in the assimilation, accommodation and evaluation of these categories, and new patterns of action. Similarly, individual psychological change – getting a new job, being diagnosed with a life-changing illness, growing old - can dramatically affect our sense of self, potentially forcing us to re-think who we are, our relationships with others and how we ought to behave in particular contexts. What social change and psychological change have in common is their power to radically affect our identities and actions. This volume is about identity, change and action. The contributors to this volume address this tripartite relationship in diverse and complex social psychological contexts. The chapters endeavor to explore the antecedents of changes in identity and action, and their developmental trajectory. It is easy to see why the important task of examining the tripartite relationship between identity, change and action has generally been neglected by social psychologists. Core debates in the field have focused on questions about the “correct” unit of analysis (psychological or sociological); competition between the quantitative and qualitative paradigms; and epistemology. These divides have, to a large extent, impeded theoretical integration. Identity Process Theory sits within this matrix of debate because of its integrative focus on the intrapsychic, interpersonal and intergroup levels, its methodological diversity and epistemological eclecticism. The theory constitutes a valuable explanatory tool for addressing pressing social psychological problems of the 21st century, and aspires to acquire predictive power as it is refined and developed in empirical work. We decided to edit this volume amid a growing body of diverse empirical research based on the theory since the early 1980s. It has been used by social psychologists in particular but has broader appeal in the social sciences and among practitioners. Thus, Identity Process Theory has an important role to play in shaping the social psychology of identity, change and action. As evidenced by the chapters in this volume, Identity Process Theory research has addressed a wide range of pressing real-world issues – national identity, post-conflict societies, sexual behavior, risk, place and environment, and prejudice. Furthermore, unlike many Western social psychological theories, Identity Process Theory has been used as a heuristic tool in diverse geographical and cultural settings – the UK, Spain, Canada, India, Israel, and others. Yet, the diversity that characterizes the theory can also make it difficult to delineate conceptually. This volume provides a summary of the development of Identity Process Theory and contextualizes the theory in the social psychology of identity, change and action.
Citation : Jaspal, R. (2013). Social psychological debates about identity. In: R. Jaspal and G.M. Breakwell (eds.), Identity Process Theory: Identity, Social Action and Social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Research Group : Psychology
Research Institute : Media Discourse Centre (MDC)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
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