Complementing Individualism with The Social Identity Approach

Like many fundamental principles, the general idea is actually quite simple: It is individuals`  self-perception that determines how they perceive their social world, and hence how they respond to events in their social world (Turner et al., 1987). When individuals see themselves as unique individuals (e.g., I like peanutbutter, a particular Dutch singer, and theories of embodiment), they see themselves as very different from others who do not share their appetite, taste, and interest. Hence, any thought, feeling, tendency, or action derives from, or is based in, their  self-perception as a unique individual. However, if individuals see themselves as group members (e.g., as a peanutbutter lover, or as a fan of a particular Dutch singer, or as an embodiment researcher), their social world is divided into an in-group (that includes the self) and out-group (that excludes the self). As a consequence, individuals will like those who are like us more than those unlike us, and easily discriminate betweenthem. As noted, such self-categorizations can occur flexibly and dynamically, and their salience is influenced by how fitting a group membership is to a particular situation (i.e., how "groupy" the situation is), and by how accessible group membership is for an individual. The movie `Fitna`, for example, is likely to make the Muslim group identity among Muslim individuals more relevant – even among those who do not necessarily identify strongly with their group and for whom the Muslim group identity is already more accessible. In this way, the  social identity approach allows individuals to become psychological group members, and it suggests that shifts in self- categorization can occur as a function of personal and situational factors (Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 2002). This ultimately implies that although someone may look and sound like an individual from an outside perspective, this person may actually self-categorize as a group member, and hence his or her perception of, and responses to, the social world should be interpreted differently. Depending on which self is salient, the same act (e.g., threatening Geert Wilders because of `Fitna`) can be viewed as the action of an individual madman, or as a statement on behalf of a group.

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