Social identity theory was first proposed by Henri Tajfel (1971). He argued that the groups to which we belong are an important source of pride and self-esteem. We can feel good about ourselves by boosting the status of any group we belong to. Age-groups, sporting teams, hobbies, gender, religions, ethnic groups and nations are all examples of groups that can give us our sense of social identity and belonging. For example, we may believe that our country, our team, our school is better than any other, and therefore other groups and their members are inferior. Unfortunately, identifying with a specific “ingroup” to improve our self-esteem can lead to competition and intolerance against an “outgroup”. Tajfel’s theory is very influential in explaining stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice.

This presentation by Dr Kylie McIntyre explains his 1971 study of ingroup and outgroup behaviour,  Tajfel et al 1971.


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