chapter  3
22 Pages

A comparison of motivational theories of identification

WithDora Capozza, Rupert Brown, Sabina Aharpour, Rossella Falvo

As should be clear from most of the chapters of this book, what has characterized what we may broadly describe as the “social identity tradition” in intergroup relations has been its depiction of intergroup phenomena as being determined by some powerful social psychological motives. In other words, people are “driven” to manifest various intergroup biases, emotions, and behaviors by a presumed lack in certain key needs. This perspective can be contrasted with other approaches — again, rather loosely, we might subsume them under the label “socio-cognitive” — in which the hypothesized causal factors are the operation of some relatively autonomous, sometimes automatic, cognitive processes (e.g., Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Of course, such a simplistic polarization does grave injustice to many theories that have attempted to bridge this divide, some of which are well represented in recent publications (e.g., Abrams & Hogg, 1999; Sedikides & Brewer, 2001). Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the last decade or so has seen a resurgence of motivational approaches. Inspired by social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981; Tajfel & Turner, 1979), in which group (and self) enhancement is posited as the primary motivation, we have seen optimal distinctiveness theory, in which countervailing needs for distinctiveness and inclusion are proposed (Brewer, 1991), uncertainty reduction theory, in which a desire for clarity and meaning is seen as the primary driver of group members’ behavior (Hogg, 2000), and functional models in which several functions are suggested as underlying identification and intergroup processes (see Deaux, Reid, Mizrahi, & Cotting, 1999). Our aim in this chapter is to examine the predictive power of some of these motivational accounts in three empirical studies.