What Is Social Identity Complexity Theory?


Martha Robinson

Social Identity Complexity Theory, also known as SICT, is a psychological theory that explores the complexity of an individual’s social identity. In simple terms, it suggests that an individual’s identity is not restricted to a single group or category, but rather comprises multiple social identities.

What is Social Identity?
To understand SICT, we first need to define what social identity means. Social identity refers to the aspect of an individual’s self-concept that is derived from their membership in various social groups. These groups can be based on different factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, profession, etc.

What is Social Identity Complexity Theory?
SICT was first introduced by Marilynn Brewer in 2003. The theory suggests that individuals have a complex social identity that consists of multiple dimensions. Each dimension reflects a different aspect of an individual’s identity and can include both personal and social characteristics.

According to SICT, individuals who have a complex social identity are more likely to be tolerant and accepting of diversity. This is because they understand the complexity of their own identities and can thus appreciate the complexity of other people’s identities. In contrast, individuals with a simple social identity tend to view the world in black and white terms and are less accepting of diversity.

How Does SICT Work?
SICT proposes that an individual’s social identity can be broken down into three dimensions: self-categorization, group prototypicality and intergroup relations.


This dimension refers to how an individual categorizes themselves into various groups based on common characteristics or interests. For instance, someone may identify themselves as a feminist or environmentalist based on their beliefs about gender or environment respectively.

Group Prototypicality

This dimension refers to how well an individual fits into a particular group. Individuals who are highly prototypical of a group tend to exhibit more conformity to that group’s norms and beliefs.

Intergroup Relations

This dimension refers to how an individual perceives their relationships with other groups. Individuals who have positive attitudes towards other groups tend to have more complex social identities.

Why is SICT Important?
SICT is important because it helps us understand how individuals perceive themselves and others in a social context. It has been found that individuals who have a complex social identity tend to be more tolerant and accepting of diversity, which can promote greater social harmony and cohesion.

Furthermore, SICT can be used to develop interventions aimed at reducing prejudice and discrimination. By promoting a more complex understanding of social identity, individuals may become more accepting and open-minded towards people from different backgrounds.

In conclusion, Social Identity Complexity Theory proposes that individuals have a complex social identity that consists of multiple dimensions. This understanding can help promote greater tolerance and acceptance of diversity, leading to a more harmonious society.