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By Richard Palais

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The affective significance of social identification arises from the felt attachment between the self and the ingroup as a whole. Social identification represents the extent to which the ingroup has been incorporated into the sense of self, and at the same time, that the self is experienced as an integral part of the ingroup. With high levels of social identification, the group’s outcomes and welfare become closely connected to one’s own sense of well-being (Brewer, 1991). According to social identity theory, it is this engagement of the self that accounts for the positive valuation of the ingroup and positive orientations toward fellow ingroup members.

Derogation of outgroups, however, increases the contrast between ingroup and outgroup and, indirectly, the relatively similarity between the self and the ingroup by comparison. Thus, threats to inclusion are predicted to heighten feelings of moral superiority, intolerance of difference, and concomitant emotions of contempt and disgust toward relevant outgroups. The emotions associated with moral superiority may justify some negative discrimination against outgroups, but do not necessarily lead directly to hostility or conflict.

Group identification in this sense involves “transformations in the definition of self and the basis for self-evaluation. When the definition of self changes, the meaning of self-interest and self-serving motivation also changes accordingly” (Brewer, 1991, p. 476). Optimal distinctiveness theory proposes that social identification is the product of the search for inclusion and differentiation, rather than a consequence of the search for self-esteem. Nonetheless, although the desire for self-enhancement may not be a primary cause of ingroup identification, identification may well lead to a motivation to view the ingroup in the most favorable possible terms.

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Classification Of G-Spaces by Richard Palais


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