Social Identity Theory is a psychological theory that seeks to explain how individuals develop a sense of social identity and how this identity influences their behavior. It was first proposed by Henri Tajfel, a British social psychologist, in the 1970s.

Henri Tajfel: The Founder of Social Identity Theory

Henri Tajfel was born on June 22, 1919, in Włocławek, Poland. He studied at the University of Lodz and later moved to France to escape the persecution of Jews during World War II. In France, he joined the French army and fought against Nazi Germany.

After the war, Tajfel pursued his academic interests and obtained a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Paris. He then moved to the United Kingdom and joined the University of Bristol as a lecturer.

The Origins of Social Identity Theory

Tajfel’s interest in understanding intergroup relations led him to develop Social Identity Theory. He believed that individuals not only have personal identities but also derive their identities from the social groups they belong to.

Social Identity Theory proposes that people strive for positive self-esteem and seek to enhance their social identity by favorably comparing their own group with other groups. This process is known as social categorization, where individuals categorize themselves and others into distinct social groups based on characteristics such as ethnicity, nationality, religion, or even sports teams.

The Minimal Group Paradigm

To explore the effects of social categorization on intergroup behavior, Tajfel conducted numerous experiments using what he called the Minimal Group Paradigm.

In these experiments, participants were randomly assigned to either Group A or Group B based on arbitrary criteria, such as a coin toss or a preference for certain paintings. Despite the minimal basis for group assignment, participants consistently showed in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination.

Implications and Legacy

Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory has had a significant impact on social psychology and our understanding of intergroup behavior. It has helped explain phenomena such as prejudice, discrimination, and ingroup-outgroup dynamics.

The theory also paved the way for further research into topics such as stereotype formation, self-categorization, and intergroup conflict. Tajfel’s work continues to influence scholars in the field of social psychology and beyond.


In conclusion, Social Identity Theory was founded by Henri Tajfel, a Polish-born British social psychologist. Tajfel’s research on intergroup behavior and his development of the Minimal Group Paradigm laid the foundation for our understanding of how individuals develop and maintain their social identities. His contributions have had a lasting impact on the field of social psychology.