Social Identity Theory

Social Identity Theory is a psychological theory that focuses on how an individual’s sense of self and identity is shaped by the groups they belong to. It emphasizes the importance of social categorization and identification with specific social groups in understanding human behavior and intergroup relations.

Social Categorization

Social categorization refers to the process of dividing individuals into distinct groups based on shared characteristics or attributes. These categories help individuals make sense of the social world and simplify complex social information. People tend to categorize others based on visible characteristics such as race, gender, age, and ethnicity. This categorization can lead to the formation of in-groups (groups to which an individual belongs) and out-groups (groups to which an individual does not belong).


Identification refers to the process through which individuals associate themselves with a particular group and internalize its values, norms, and beliefs. It involves a sense of belongingness and emotional attachment to the group. Identification with a group contributes to a person’s sense of social identity, which is based on group membership rather than individual traits or characteristics. Individuals may identify with multiple groups simultaneously, and the salience of different identities can vary depending on the context.

Social Comparison

Social comparison involves evaluating one’s own group positively in relation to other groups. This comparison can lead to intergroup biases, such as in-group favoritism and out-group derogation. In-group favoritism refers to the tendency to view one’s own group more positively and grant its members preferential treatment. Out-group derogation, on the other hand, involves perceiving members of other groups in a more negative or inferior light. These biases serve to enhance the self-esteem and social standing of the in-group.


Social Identity Theory has important implications for understanding a wide range of social phenomena, including intergroup conflict, prejudice, discrimination, and collective action. It highlights the role of social identity in shaping attitudes, behaviors, and intergroup relations. By examining the ways in which group membership influences individuals’ self-perception and behavior, this theory provides valuable insights into the dynamics of social interactions and the formation of social cohesion or division.