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Within life we give ourselves a number of titles which are also known as social roles. A Social role according to James, Witte, Galbraith (2006) is an expectation of a behaviour, attitude or function in which a position in society holds. I play a number of social roles that contribute to my social identity. Within my family environment some of my roles include sister, daughter, cousin and niece. Within the community, my social roles are diverse and include a citizen, church member, friend, neighbour, and student. Most of these roles remain constant throughout my life; however, roles can change daily or over time. These social roles are important as they put in place scripts about how to behave in certain situations.
Within these social roles, according to Baumeister & Bushman (2008) humans have a natural tendency to divide themselves into groups. The social categorisation theory proposes that society influences individual identity (Goa, 2007). These social groups are established based on a shared identity with other group members (Rogers & Lea, 2005). Shared identities may include gender, race, religion, values and beliefs. Rogers & Lea (2005) state that these communalities are based not interpersonal relations between individuals (such as liking someone), but are based around the common factor. Social categorisation occurs when I Place myself into groups that are either 'me' (in-groups) or 'not me' (out-groups) (Kashima, Foddy & Platow, 2002).
The most obvious example of this is being female. From this personal attribute I clearly distinguish myself from being male. I have various other social groups in my life that contribute to my social identity, such as my race. My mother is Tongan and my father is Australian. Therefore, I am connected in various ways to the Tongan community and the Australian community. However, living in Australia I tend to identify myself more with Australians. This observation ** supports Kashima, Foddy & Platow’s (2002) claim that social categorisation differs depending on context. Again, a clear distinction has been made between me (who I am) and any other race that is not either Tongan or Australian (not me).
My values and beliefs are another area of my life where social categorisation is evident. Being a Christian I have similar morals and values to many other Christians. Placing myself in the Christian category, produces the statement that I am Christian and I am not Atheist or Agnostic. My family has also instilled in me certain values and priorities which connects me to or disconnect me from a vast number of groups. Categorisations determine who I am, and who I am not in society. Impacting on my cognitions and can be seen in action via my social roles and self presentation.
The self comparison theory that was proposed by Festinger in 1954, suggests that we compare our abilities and opinions with others (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007). Vaughan & Hogg (2005) go as far as stating that our cognitions, emotions and behaviours are formulated around the behaviours, emotions and cognitions of other people. This concept is personally confronting but at the same time very real. Social comparison can be made in order to validate oneself and is more likely to occur when insecurity is present (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007). Social comparison can be used to enhance, validate, improve or destruct one’s social identity, depending on the direction of the comparison (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007).
On a personal level, social comparisons have an impact on my social identity. I often associate and make comparison with those who are like me. These similarities are mainly found in those who have the same interests and those who are of the same background (i.e. Tongan and Australian). I would describe myself as generally optimistic, happy, caring, honest, open, humerous and passionate. These descriptions are based on my comparison of myself with people who I interact with regularly. When comparing myself to someone like Mother Theresa, I wouldn’t consider myself as caring as initially described.
The same goes for my social class, I consider myself to be middle class. This concept of myself would change depending on context and geographical location. Yet in the context of my current situation and context, I consider myself to be similar to those around me. Other comparisons manifest themselves in physical attractiveness and fitness. Being a female in today*s society I find it hard to avoid physical comparisons. Western culture focuses on stereotypical form of attractiveness, which I do not fit ***. That being said, I join social groups with those who are not overly concerned with appearance.
Social comparisons can give positions or places in society and contribute to the types of groups we which associate **. The labels I give myself, as a result of these positive or negative comparisons, are instilled in my cognitions. Self presentation, allows me to either hide or promote these characteristics from society. Fiske (2004) claims that we present ourselves differently depending on how we want others to perceive us. Fiske (2004) defines 5 common forms of self presentations which include integration, self promotion, intimidation, exemplification and supplication.
Self presentation for me *** assists in gaining approval about my social self by peers, friends, family and other social groups. Through using the looking glass self, I imagine how others view me. When I first meet someone I am generally quiet and reserved. My looking glass self tells me that if I’m loud and rude at first, the other person might think I’m terrible company. After becoming acquainted I tend to open up more and become more active in the social situation. This is another form of social presentation because I don’t want to be considered boring and unexciting.
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Finally, my cultural background also has influence on my social identity. In contrast with Australia, an individualistic culture (Malim, 1997), **Tonga has a collectivist culture (Malim, 1997). Living in Australia, the western culture has dominated my social interactions in the community. My Tongan heritage, on the other hand, has more on an influence of my family interactions. I believe it is from my Tongan background that I have developed an interdependent self. Myers (2008) suggests that interdependent people define themselves by their social connections. This concept of culture extends from my cultural heritage, to various aspects of my life.
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Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social psychology and human nature (1st ed.) Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Chien-Huang, L. & Chia- Ching, T. (2007). Comparison conditions, comparison patterns and models of comparative behaviour. Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(6), 761-776
Goa, C. D. (2007). Social identity theory and the reduction of inequality: can cross cutting categorization reduce inequality in mixed race groups? Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(4), 537-550
Fiske, S. T. (2004). The self: Social to the core. In S. T. Fiske (2004). Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. (Ch 5, pp. 169 - 214). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
James, W. B., Witte, J.E., & Galbraith, M. W. (2006). Havighurst’s social roles revisited. Journal of Adult Development, 13(1). 52-60.
Malim, T. (1997). Social Psychology.( 2nd Ed). Wiltshire. Macmillan press Ltd
Kashima, Y., Foddy, M. & Platow, M. J. (2002), Self and Identity. Personal, Social and Symbolic. New Jersey: Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Myers, D. G. (2008). Social Psychology (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Rogers, P. & Lea, M. Social presence in distributed group environments: the role of social identity. Behaviour & Information Technology, 24(2). 151-158
Vaughan, G.M. & Hogg, M. A. (2005). Introduction into Social Psychology (4th ed.) Harlow: Pearson Education