The Social Categorization Theory is a psychological theory that seeks to explain how individuals categorize themselves and others into social groups. This theory was developed by Henri Tajfel, a Polish-British social psychologist, in the 1970s.

Tajfel’s Background

Henri Tajfel was born in Poland in 1919 and later moved to France to escape the Nazi occupation during World War II. He completed his education in psychology at the Sorbonne University in Paris and went on to pursue a career in academia.

The Social Categorization Theory

The Social Categorization Theory proposes that individuals have an innate tendency to categorize themselves and others into social groups based on various characteristics such as race, nationality, gender, or even shared interests. According to Tajfel, these categorizations serve as a way for individuals to understand their social world and establish a sense of identity.

In-Group Favoritism

One of the key concepts within the Social Categorization Theory is in-group favoritism. Tajfel argued that once individuals have categorized themselves into a particular group, they tend to favor members of their own group over members of other groups. This bias can lead to prejudice and discrimination against out-group members.

Social Identity Theory

Tajfel’s work on the Social Categorization Theory also laid the foundation for the development of the Social Identity Theory. This theory expands on Tajfel’s ideas by exploring how individuals derive their self-esteem from their membership in social groups.

Experimental Evidence

Tajfel conducted several experiments to support his theories on social categorization. One notable experiment is known as the Minimal Group Paradigm.

In this experiment, participants were randomly assigned to either Group A or Group B based on arbitrary criteria, such as their preference for a particular painting. Despite the absence of any real differences between the groups, participants consistently exhibited in-group favoritism and showed a preference for members of their own group.

Impact and Legacy

Tajfel’s Social Categorization Theory has had a significant impact on the field of social psychology. His work has helped researchers better understand how individuals perceive themselves and others in relation to social groups. It has also shed light on the psychological processes that contribute to prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup conflict.


The Social Categorization Theory, developed by Henri Tajfel, offers valuable insights into how individuals categorize themselves and others into social groups. Tajfel’s work has paved the way for further research on social identity and intergroup relations. By understanding these psychological processes, we can strive towards creating a more inclusive and harmonious society.