Complementing Individualism with The Social Identity Approach

Not quite. Almost four decades of theory and research have shown that the individual self is not always primary, nor is it alone in the psychological universe. Individuals can perceive themselves as group members, and hence act on the basis of a  group self(Tajfel, 1978). Depending on how individuals perceive themselves, the outrage expressed by those viewing the anti-Islam movie `Fitna`1, for example, may reflect either individuals` personal outrage, or their group-based outrage. This difference is important because people will often attribute such outrage to individuals` personality characteristics (e.g., a mad, irrational, dangerous extremist). However, according to the  social identity approach (for a recent overview, see Hornsey, 2008), the individual and group selves are neither static nor fixed – rather, individuals actively construct and define them through the interactive influence of personal and contextual variables. More specifically, in this line of thought  social identity theory (e.g., Tajfel, 1978Tajfel & Turner, 1979) emphasizes the socio-structural antecedents of identification with a group, whereas self- categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987) focuses on how individuals situationally become psychological group members. Together, the  social identity approach suggests that individualist approaches to psychology run the risk of being reductionist because they do not acknowledge the  group self and with it, a distinct realm of psychology.

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