Complementing Individualism with The Social Identity Approach

A similar development can be found in research on  relative deprivation, which is defined as the experience that one is denied something that one feels entitled to (e.g., Crosby, 1982). This tradition was also rooted in ideas about the irrational nature of collective action, in which  relative deprivation was thought to contribute to the so-called breakdown of the social order through motivating irrational and aggressive outbursts of action. Not unlike LeBon`s dangerous crowds that were possessed by thegroup mind, individuals` sense of  relative deprivation was thought to result in riots and inter-group aggression. Later research and another quantitative research synthesis however suggested that it is group-based rather than individual deprivation that predicts collective action (H.J. Smith & Ortiz, 2002). Defining one`s deprivation as something collective appeared to lift the burden of individuals` lonely and relatively powerless shoulders, and actually helped to engage in actions that aim to fight their deprivation (Van Zomeren, Spears, Fischer, & Leach, 2004). The result was that group-based deprivation actually fitted better with solidarity accounts of collective action (in which groups constructively fight for their interests) than with breakdown accounts (in which groups fight to break down the social order).

Moreover, recent theorizing suggests that even individuals` emotions are not always experienced on the basis of the individual self. Mackie, Devos, and Smith (2000), for example, showed that participants could be induced to feel anger and fear on the basis of a relevant group membership. In a similar vein, Doosje, Branscombe, Spears, and Manstead (1998) showed that individuals can feel guilt for past wrongdoings of fellow group members. In other words, one can experience emotion on the basis of a group membership that connects one to a past never experienced (see (Zebel, Pennekamp, Van Zomeren, Doosje, Van Kleef, Vliek, & Van der Schalk, 2007). Thus, although your emotions may feel very much your own, they are not always based in your individual self. In at least some instances, they are much more ours than they are uniquely yours.

The larger point here is that psychological phenomena that appear to be irrational from an individualist perspective (e.g., riots) may actually be quite functional when viewed from the  social identity approach. From this point of view, crowd behavior is not irrational and impulsive, but functionally guided by group norms. Furthermore, the experience of group-based deprivation functionally motivates collective action to fight the group`s disadvantage together with fellow group members. And finally, the experience of emotions more generally on behalf of the collective is equally functional: Group-based guilt motivates reparation behavior towards those oppressed in the past, and group-based anger and fear motivate approach and avoidance of the out-group, respectively. It seems, then, that we have indeed evolved as social animals that are particularly "herdy": We even have a psychological mechanism available that allows individuals to become psychological group members. Therefore, there is no reason to reside with reductionism.

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