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Identity Theory: Analysis and Reconstruction *

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-80043-233-8, eISBN: 978-1-80043-232-1

ISSN: 0882-6145

Publication date: 20 October 2020


Purpose – Stryker's identity theory has impacted sociological social psychology for a half century and still inspires an active research agenda. To date, however, its terms and arguments have not been analyzed closely. Our purpose with this project was to conduct such an analysis.

Design/Methodology/Approach – We provide a detailed rationale for our analytic method that entails an objective examination of a theory's clarity, parsimony, precision, and other essential scientific qualities. It is applied using procedures that, among other functions, check terms for clarity and consistency of usage, and ensure that key arguments are logically valid.

Findings – The analysis revealed significant gaps and ambiguities in the core theory. We offered a series of recommendations designed to supply missing logical elements, clarify definitions, and streamline the terminological system. We sought to remain true to the original theory's purposes while further strengthening its coherence, transparency, and overall utility.

Practical Implications – Kurt Lewin's famous maxim applies well here: “Nothing is so practical as a good theory.” To the extent that a body of research is claimed to be theory-driven, gaps and ambiguities throw into question the results of empirical tests and applications that ostensibly are backed by the theory. Without theoretical support, findings are neither meaningful nor generalizable.

Social Implications – A logically sound and semantically transparent identity theory will have the greatest chance for making real differences in society via practical applications.

Originality/Value of the Chapter – We offer a straightforward method to ensure meaningfulness and integrity in social science theories. Such analyses are rare, but we hope that their utility for theory-driven research programs such as identity theory's is evident.



Markovsky, B. and Frederick, J. (2020), "Identity Theory: Analysis and Reconstruction * ", Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 157-189.



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