I've been reading a few articles and papers about individuals identifying with groups and their behaviors and attitudes, however I haven't yet found an answer to one of the questions that I was trying to learn about.

What does a strong identity association with a group (or multiple groups) indicate about the person as an individual (preferably from a social or IO psychology perspective), if anything?

I was looking to learn about were to see if a strong identity association with groups could possible be indicative of their ability to function well on other teams or if they are more suited to particular roles on a team (management, coordination activities as opposed to other team functions) as opposed to someone who tended to not have strong identity associations with groups. I'm also interested in their development as a person, especially with regards to relationships (friendship, romantic, at the workplace, out of the workplace).

  • $\begingroup$ If anyone has any keywords that might be relevant as well, please feel free to share. I'd be more than willing to continue my own research, but I'm running out of things to search for in various databases and search engines that might bring up what I'm looking for. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2012 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think this question is confusing, because a tempting answer would be "if a person strongly identifies with group A, then they are more likely to have typical traits of people from group A". However, that is not what you want to ask. A potential solution is to ask the flip question: "What can be said about individuals who do not have strong group associations?" I feel that this might make your question more clear (at least to me) and the answer to it might still be enlightening/of interest to you. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2012 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev I'm not interested in a particular group A, though. I'm thinking more of a more generic situation and if a strong level of identification with any arbitrary group can be used to determine characteristics or traits that can be applied to a second arbitrary group of size n >= 2. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2012 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, after reading your question, I gathered you were not interested in a specific group. I am just suggesting that some people might not get that at first (I didn't get it until a careful reading of the question, for instance). Also, phrasing the converse might give you more search terms, but you probably tried those already. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2012 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev I'll try to rephrase, after I do some searching for the idea you described. Perhaps I can come across some more ideas to help refine my question, if I don't come across the answer. It'll be a day or two, but hopefully I can come up with some kind of improvement or more information on my own. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2012 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


Social Categorization Theory

From a social psychology perspective Social Categorization Theory (Haslam, Jetten, Postmes & Haslam, 2009) might be of interest to you. SCT states that self-categorization varies with different social contexts and leads to a depersonalisation in the sense that an individual is less likely to perceive himself as independent but rather as belonging to a group. This self-categorization then leads to group behaviour. SCT has been applied to many different areas. With regard to your question I think the relations of SCT and Perceived Threat (Steele, 1997) are relevant.

SCT and Perceived Threat

Perceived Threat occurs in situations where performance matters and refers to a process in which a member of a stereotyped group is threatened by the perception that other persons perceive him based on that (negative) stereotype. The Perceived Threat leads to stress, which in turn negatively affects performance. The theory has been used to account for the difference in cognitive ability tests between african americans and white people (Blascovich, Spencer, Quinn & Steele, 2001). The authors found that, under a high threat condition, african americans had greater blood pressure and lower test scores than white participants. There was no difference in blood pressure or test scores under a low threat condition.

The theory has also been used to demonstrate negative effects of stereotype against women (Von Hippel, Issa, Ma & Stokes, 2010) and older men (Von Hippel, Kalokerinos & Henry, 2012).


Blascovich, Jim, Steven J. Spencer, Diane Quinn, und Claude Steele (2001). African Americans and high blood pressure: The role of stereotype threat. Psychological Science, 12, 225–229.

Haslam, S. Alexander, Jolanda Jetten, Tom Postmes, und Catherine Haslam (2009). Social identity, health and well-being: An emerging agenda for applied psychology. Applied Psychology 58, 1–23.

Steele, Claude M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.

Von Hippel, Courtney, Mona Issa, Roslyn Ma, und Abby Stokes (2011). Stereotype threat: Antecedents and consequences for working women. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 151–161.

Von Hippel, Courtney, Elise K. Kalokerinos, und Julie D. Henry (2012). Stereotype Threat Among Older Employees: Relationship With Job Attitudes and Turnover Intentions.


This kind of answer is also in focal point of my research. Unfortunately none of my attempts in social psychology didn't result in accepted predictions of group behavior. In some occasions they are reliable in other not. But work of Wilfred Bion is of great help in my work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Bion

  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting. Can you give some insights into your experiments? $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2013 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ It was about various pop rock bands and their acceptance of new players. Those were voluntary groups, so they could choose the group they will belong to. I usually recognized pairs narcisstic - borderline or dependant, i also noticed simillar group dynamic in skipper-crew combinations. I consider it as pre research, because it is very interesting field ill try to reseach more if i had time. $\endgroup$
    – ICanFeelIt
    Jun 18, 2013 at 15:11

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