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The purpose of this chapter is to review the historical development of identity theory from 1988 to the present, and then outline some thoughts about future directions for…
The purpose of this chapter is to review the historical development of identity theory from 1988 to the present, and then outline some thoughts about future directions for the theory.
The chapter discusses major advances in identity theory over the past 25 years such as the incorporation of the perceptual control system into the theory, the introduction of “resources” in which symbolic and sign meanings are important, new views of the social structure, the relevance of the situation in influencing the identity process, the idea of different bases of identities, broadening our understanding of multiple identities, studying identity change, and bringing in emotions into the theory.
Throughout the review, empirical work is identified and briefly discussed that supports the major advances of the theory.
The chapter suggests a number of ways that identity theory may be developed in the future such as examining negative or stigmatized identities. Additionally, there is a discussion as to ways in which the theory may be tied to other theoretical traditions such as affect control theory, exchange theory, and social identity theory.
Identity theory has had a number of applications to various areas in society, including understanding crime, education, race/ethnicity, gender, the family, and the environment.
Originality/Value of Chapter
This is the most recent overview of identity theory over the past 25 years. It becomes clear to the reader that the theory offers a way of understanding the person as a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral agent who influences the structure of society but who is also influenced by the social structure.
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…
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.
Recent developments in identity theory are used to understand emotions in distributive justice theory. Three issues are examined: the consistency vs. enhancement dynamic…
Recent developments in identity theory are used to understand emotions in distributive justice theory. Three issues are examined: the consistency vs. enhancement dynamic, the status dynamic, and the resource dynamic. Results reveal individuals initially react positively to over-rewards; later they react more negatively. We suggest that the enhancement process occurs initially; the consistency process occurs later. Regarding status, persons respond negatively to unjust outcomes when they come from higher status persons. Finally, positive emotions are a resource for individuals initially and across encounters, buffering the effect of repeated unjust outcomes. Overall, this study helps develop emotions in distributive justice theory.
Identity control theory has long posited that there are positive emotional consequences to identity verification and negative emotional consequences to the lack of identity verification. While some of the positive consequences of identity verification have been discussed, little work has been done to elaborate the variety of negative emotions that result for a discrepancy between meanings held in the identity standard and meanings perceived in the situation. This paper elaborates the nature of this discrepancy and hypothesizes the variety of negative emotions that arise depending upon the source of the discrepancy, the source of the identity standard, and the relative power and status of the actor and others in the situation. In this way, the emotional consequences of identity non-verification are shown to depend upon the context of the social structure in which the non-verification occurs.
This research continues to advance the role of emotion in identity theory by examining how the external social structure influences internal identity processes to produce negative emotions. According to identity control theory, negative arousal emerges when one experiences identity feedback that is non-verifying, persistent, and from a source who is familiar compared to unfamiliar to one. While other research has not definitively supported these relationships (Stets, 2003, 2005), the current research examines whether the identity theory hypotheses are conditioned upon one’s status in the social structure. Using the diffuse status characteristic of gender where the status of male is high and the status of female is low, I investigate the role of status (both as the recipient and source of non-verifying identity feedback), persistence, and familiarity in producing negative emotions. The data are based on a laboratory experiment that simulates a work situation and invokes the worker identity. Workers of high or low status are the recipients of identity non-verification that is persistent or non-persistent and that is from a familiar or unfamiliar other. Managers of high or low status and who are familiar or unfamiliar with the workers are the source of persistent or non-persistent identity non-verification. The results reveal that the status of actors both as the recipient and source of identity non-verification are significant for negative emotions, suggesting that status effects need to be incorporated into the theoretical development of emotions in identity theory.
This research uses identity theory to examine the individual variability in moral behavior for acts of commission (committing a bad act) and omission (failing to do a good…
This research uses identity theory to examine the individual variability in moral behavior for acts of commission (committing a bad act) and omission (failing to do a good act). Most research using identity theory has examined behavior in the active sense as in doing something while neglecting behavior in the passive sense as in not doing something. Doing something may carry more information as to who one is than not doing something. Thus, behavior in the active sense may be more likely to implicate the self and thus activate the identity process than behavior in the passive sense. I investigate this by placing individuals in the moral dilemma of a testing situation in which they have the opportunity to cheat (an act of commission) (Condition 1) or not report that they were over-scored on a test (an act of omission) (Condition 2). Participants' moral identities and emotions are obtained. The results reveal that the identity process helps explain moral behavior and emotions for an act of commission but not an act of omission. The results suggest that compared to an omitted act, a committed act generates more cognitive processing as to who one is thereby activating the identity process. Furthermore, in omission, individuals may not see themselves as responsible for an outcome, thus failing to frame the situation in moral terms – as having done a bad thing.
The deadhead subculture – centered around the band Grateful Dead – has been active for 50+ years. Despite its longevity, academic work is sparse compared to other music…
The deadhead subculture – centered around the band Grateful Dead – has been active for 50+ years. Despite its longevity, academic work is sparse compared to other music subcultures. Given its durability and resilience, this subculture offers an opportunity to explore subcultural development and maintenance. I employ a contemporary, symbolic interactionist approach to trace the development of deadhead subculture and subcultural identity. Although identity is a basic concept in subculture research, it is not well defined: I suggest that the co-creation and maintenance of subcultural identity can be seen as a dialectic between collective identity and symbolic interactionist conceptions of individual role-identity.