Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 6: Categorizing oneself as a group member (pp. 189194)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Learning About Our Groups (pp. 189190)
  2. Accessibility of Group Memberships (pp. 190194)
    1. Direct reminders of membership
    2. Presence of out-group members
    3. Being a minority
    4. Conflict or rivalry
    5. Cultural differences in the importance of group membership
    6. Individual differences in group membership importance
Learning About Our Groups

We learn about groups by lessons from parents, teachers, peers, and the media.

But most importantly we learn by observing other group members in what they do. Performing a role based on group membership can shape behaviors and self-knowledge. What we and other group members do, in turn, influences our group stereotypes.

Accessibility of Group Memberships
Direct reminders of membership

Labels can activate knowledge about group membership.

More subtle ways to activate group membership are (a) circumstances that remind us of similarities with others, (b) the mere presence of other in-group members, and (c) highlighted group similarities.

Presence of out-group members

The presence of out-group members can activate knowledge about group membership. This is demonstrated by Marques, Yzerbyt, and Rijsman (1988); the presence of a single out-group member is sufficient to increase our focus on in-group membership (SP p. 191)

Being a minority

When out-group members outnumber the in-group, the minority are more likely to base their self-esteem on the performance of another in-group member.

Conflict or rivalry

Conflict or rivalry between groups is the most potent factor that activates group membership.

Cultural differences in the importance of group membership

Cultural differences can affect whether people tend to see themselves as members of larger groups or categories (interdependent cultures), or see themselves as individuals (independent cultures).

However, even in individualistic cultures, group memberships influences the way people think about themselves and others.

Individual differences in group membership importance

A personally important group membership is frequently activated and highly accessible, and this produces differences in the way we perceive others and ourselves.

When a membership is chronically accessible for someone, it is part of the self-schema of that person.

So what does this mean?

Group membership can turn into a social identity that links people with others, when the group becomes a significant part of a person's self-concept through the process of self-categorization.

By observing other group members in what they do, we learn what characteristics are associated with groups. Knowledge about group membership is activated by direct reminders of membership (labels, circumstances that remind us of similarities with others, the mere presence of other in-group members, and highlighted group similarities), the presence of out-group members, being a minority, and conflict or rivalry between groups. Cultural differences can affect whether people tend to see themselves as members of larger groups or categories, or see themselves as individuals. Individual differences in the frequency and accessibility of membership activation produce differences in the way we perceive others and ourselves.

Next topic

Me, you, and them: Effects of social categorization

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 6 introduction
  2. Categorizing oneself as a group member
  3. Me, you, and them: Effects of social categorization
  4. When group memberships are negative
  5. Chapter overview (PDF)
  6. Fill-in-the-blanks
  7. Multiple-choice questions