In this chapter, we advance an understanding of identity theory (IT) as originally created by Sheldon Stryker and developed over the past 50 years. We address misunderstandings of IT concepts and connections. We provide definitions of key ideas in IT, propositions that identify important relationships, and scope conditions that outline the circumstances to which IT applies. Our goal is to provide scholars with an accurate view of IT so that it can continue to advance the science of human behavior in sociology and beyond.
Stets, Burke, Serpe, and Stryker's (SBS&S's) comment in this volume argued that Markovsky and Frederick's (M&F's) analysis and reconstruction of identity theory (IT) was superfluous and flawed. It was superfluous, they contended, because we did not understand the full theory whose components are scattered across hundreds of publications throughout 50 years. That made our point for us: The kind of analysis for which we advocated would, at minimum, gather up all the essential pieces and check their internal consistency, clarity, and integrity. To support their claim that our analysis was flawed, Stets et al. offered their own interpretations of the IT literature to correct alleged errors in M&F's interpretations. This also served to reinforce one of our main points: IT's terms and propositions are so open to interpretation as to permit mutually contradictory implications. The theory needs the kind of analysis and provisional disambiguations that we attempted to provide.
We detail the evolution of open interaction coding schemes that have long been used to capture behavioral indicators of the power and prestige order in status…
We detail the evolution of open interaction coding schemes that have long been used to capture behavioral indicators of the power and prestige order in status characteristics research. Although the theoretical variables ostensibly measured with these methods are few and explicit, the implementation of open interaction coding is not standardized and different projects have keyed on different specific behaviors. We argue that open interaction coding could benefit from the utilization of a more refined and standardized coding scheme. We offer precise operational definitions and some illustrations from our own recent projects in hopes of fostering more transparency in future research.
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.
Advances in Group Processes publishes theoretical analyses, reviews, and theory-based empirical chapters on group phenomena. The series adopts a broad conception of “group processes.” This includes work on groups ranging from the very small to the very large, and on classic and contemporary topics such as status, power, trust, justice, influence, decision-making, intergroup relations, and social networks. Previous contributors have included scholars from diverse fields including sociology, psychology, political science, business, philosophy, computer science, mathematics, and organizational behavior.