Social Identity

One part of our self-concept is our personal identity, how each of us thinks of himself or herself as a unique human being. Another important part is our social identity, groups that to which we perceive we belong. Group identification or membership influences our outlook and behavior, to the degree that we accept and adhere to the values, beliefs, customs, and actions of a group.

We can also acquire group identities as others, on the basis of appearance or some other attribute, categorize us as members of a group or subgroup (and that attribution may not be correct). A visiting African professor can be seen as African-American, based on the color of his skin. A person with a Hispanic surname can be seen as a foreigner or immigrant, even though her family has lived in the United States for over 400 years.All of us have multiple identities. The worksheet Understanding our Social Identities can be a useful tool for students to use in coming to grips with what is important to them in terms of their self-concept.