What Is Social Identity Theory IB Psychology?


Vincent White

Social Identity Theory is a concept in IB Psychology that explains how individuals adopt and identify themselves with certain groups, leading to the formation of their social identity. This theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner in 1979, who stated that an individual’s self-concept is derived from their group membership and the value and emotional significance attached to it.

The Basic Concept of Social Identity Theory

According to social identity theory, individuals categorize themselves as members of certain groups based on social, cultural, and personal characteristics. These groups can be anything from gender, race, ethnicity, religion, occupation, or even sports teams. The theory suggests that people tend to have a positive bias towards their own group membership while having negative feelings towards others.

In-Groups and Out-Groups

Social identity theory explains the concept of in-groups and out-groups. In-groups are groups where individuals identify themselves as members based on common traits or characteristics. In contrast, out-groups are those with whom they do not have any shared traits or characteristics.

Social Comparison

In addition to categorizing themselves into in-groups and out-groups, individuals also engage in social comparison. They compare their group’s status with other groups’ status based on various factors such as power, wealth, or popularity.

The Formation of Social Identity

The formation of social identity begins when an individual identifies themselves as a member of a particular group. This identification leads to the development of an emotional attachment towards the group. As people interact more within their group members and compare themselves with other groups’ status, they begin to develop norms that define their behavior within the group.

  • Norms: Norms refer to unwritten rules that govern behavior within a group.
  • Values: Values refer to the beliefs and attitudes that a group holds about certain issues or topics.
  • Roles: Roles refer to the positions and functions that individuals play within the group based on their skills and abilities.

Implications of Social Identity Theory

Social identity theory has several implications for human behavior. It explains why people tend to form groups, how they identify with them, and how they behave within those groups. This theory also helps to understand the causes of intergroup conflict.

Stereotyping and Prejudice

Social identity theory also explains why people tend to stereotype members of other groups. Stereotyping is a cognitive process that involves categorizing individuals into certain groups based on their perceived characteristics. Prejudice is an emotional response to stereotyping, which involves negative feelings towards members of other groups.

Social Change

Social identity theory also helps to understand how social change occurs in society. When individuals identify with a particular group, they tend to have a collective sense of responsibility towards that group’s objectives. This collective action can lead to social change when a particular group’s interests conflict with the status quo.


In conclusion, social identity theory is an essential concept in IB Psychology that explains how individuals form their social identities based on group membership and develop norms, values, and roles within those groups. This theory helps to understand why people tend to stereotype others and engage in intergroup conflict while offering insights into social change processes. By understanding this concept, we can gain valuable insights into human behavior in different contexts.