chapter  5
26 Pages

Social Identity Complexity: Theoretical Implications for the Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations: Katharina Schmid and Miles Hewstone


Multiple-categorization approaches are receiving ever more attention in social psychological theory and research on intergroup relations. The basic premise underlying such approaches is that individuals typically belong to and identify with multiple social groups. Moreover, these approaches underline the notion that multiple social categories can become salient simultaneously, affording individuals the capacity to attend to and make judgments about others based on their multiple group memberships. This is, of course, not a new idea. Social psychologists have long recognized the importance of multiple categorization processes for understanding intergroup relations (see Crisp & Hewstone, 2007, for a detailed review), as have scholars in other fields (e.g., Murphy, 1957). What is new, however, is the notion advanced by Marilynn Brewer and colleagues that individuals differ in the way in which they incorporate their multiple group memberships into their sense of self. Individuals may thus perceive their multiple social categories in more or less complex and differentiated ways, based on the subjectively perceived interrelationships between their multiple in-group identities (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). Importantly, the extent to which individuals differ in social identity complexity is said to have important consequences for intergroup perception and attitudes. The social identity complexity concept thus extends previous theorizing on multiple

categorization processes in important ways since it focuses much more explicitly on multiple self-categorization processes than do other multiple categorization approaches.