chapter  6
23 Pages

Optimal Distinctiveness in Nested Categorization Contexts: Moving From Dueling Identities to a Dual Identity: Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, Cynthia L. Pickett, John E. Joseph, and Yanine D. Hess


A key feature of contemporary and classic theories of social identification is the idea that individuals can flexibly categorize themselves as members of various social groups (for recent reviews, see Dovidio & Gaertner, 2010; Yzerbyt & DeMoulin, 2010). When asked to respond to the statement “Who am I?” (Kuhn & McPartland, 1954), people often generate a lengthy list of groups that serve to define who they are. Although social identity researchers have recognized that a multiplicity of self-categories can exist for any single individual, theory and research has only recently addressed the interrelationships between multiple self-categories and the consequences that these relationships have for shaping social identification processes (Crisp & Hewstone, 2007; Roccas & Brewer, 2002; Schmid & Hewstone, this volume) and intergroup relations (Brewer & Pierce, 2005; Crisp, Hewstone, & Rubin, 2001; Lau & Murnighan, 1998, 2005; Schmid & Hewstone, this volume). Individuals’ representations of their identities can involve perceiving some groups as isolated from other groups while perceiving other sets of groups as being highly overlapping (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). Of primary interest in this chapter are nested category contexts, where two categories are salient, but one category is perceived to be a subset of a larger superordinate category. For example, in academic contexts,

a person’s specific field (e.g., psychology) might be perceived as being nested within a broader discipline (e.g., the social sciences). We argue here that a fruitful avenue for research is to consider how social identity processes operate within specific identity structures.