Summarise Two Theories of Identity and Compare Their Usefulness for Explaining the Real World Issues Discussed in Chapter 1.

Summarise two theories of identity and compare their usefulness for explaining the real world issues discussed in Chapter 1.

Social identity theory (SIT) is a theory designed to explain how a persons sense of who they are relates directly to the groups that they belong to. Henri Tajfel was a Holocaust survivor that wanted to understand relationships between groups and the processes that led to prejudice.This theory also identified that identity can be changed by switching groups and that identity is therefore socially dependant.

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson was the first theorist to view identity as psychosocial; this meant that he recognised that both personal and social factors influenced the development of identity. Erikson developed his theories from a combination of clinical and naturalistic observations and also from his analyses of biographies of famous men (Phoenix, 2007). Erikson viewed the development of identity as a lifelong process, one that had eight different psychosocial stages starting from infancy and reaching the final stage in late adulthood.  

Prejudice is a negative attitude or judgement shown towards a certain group. Tajfel’s research helped to clearly show that SIT highlighted that being a part of a group can lead to showing prejudice behaviour towards another group, regardless of how small the differences may be. Being part of a group helps fulfil the basic need of self esteem, which in turn leads us to favour those that are around us, our ingroup and show hostility against the outgroup. From his findings he was able to argue that people built social identities in part from their group membership and sense of belonging.

Erikson’s theory of having to complete each of his eight development stages before progressing to the next can help us to explain why prejudice amongst groups occurs. Erikson saw stage 5, adolescence, as a period of psychosocial moratorium, this meant that some young people may delay making definitive social...