Brown (2007) suggests that this idea is based on three key ssumptions.
Firstly, that maintaining positive self-esteem is a basic human motivation. Secondly, that self-esteem is based on the positive or negative values ascribed toa particular group membership. Thirdly, these values are developed by comparing the in-group with appropriate out-groups. It can be argued that the first assumption is biologically based, whereas the second and third are based primarily on cognitive factors.TaJfel began conducting a series of experiments known as minimal group paradigm (MGP) experiments. These experiments were designed to test whether intergroup iscrimination would occur when group membership was assigned using minimal (arbitrary or meaningless) conditions, for example using a coin toss to allocate groups (Billig and TaJfel, 1973, cited in TaJfel, 1982).
TaJfel, Billig, Bundy and Flament (1971) began a series of MGP experiments to argue that in-group bias occurs even when there is no conflict or competition between the groups.TaJfel et al (1971) stated that results show that even when individual benefit was unaffected, participants chose to maximise differences between the groups (in favour of the in-group) rather than hoosing either maximum benefit for both groups or maximum benefit for the in- group. TaJfel et al (1971) suggest that this occurs to preserve or achieve positive group distinctiveness. This idea is supported by other research, including a field study conducted by Brown (1978, cited by TaJfel, 1982).TaJfel et al (1971) discuss cognitive factors and briefly mention the influences of social factors especially that of 'social norms of group membership', and TaJfel repeatedly stresses the importance of uniting cognitive and social explanations when exploring group membership (TaJfel, 1982). However the MGP experiments only investigate cognitive, not social, processes and TaJfel et al (1971) do not elaborate on the specific relationship between cognitive and social factors nor do they explain how the social factors operate.
Michael Billig, a student of TaJfel and fellow researcher in the MGP experiments, has since become interested in the study of discourse and rhetoric in explaining group membership, and his work has been cited as one of the influences in the development of discursive psychology (Weatherall, 2002). Discursive psychologists' main criticism of this theory is that in reducing group membership to the level of ognitive processes, social identity theory neglects the historical and socio-cultural structures that shape what it means to be part of a group (Williams, 1992, cited in Hansen and Liu, 1997).Billig (2002, cited in Brown, 2007) suggests that although it was Taffel's intention to incorporate social factors into the social identity theory he did not achieve it in his work and Billig argues that the majority of contemporary researchers of social identity theory have ignored this aim. Discursive psychology refers to discourse analysis that investigates psychological themes.
This approach was originally developed during the 1990s by Potter and Edwards, who drew on previous work from a variety of disciplines, including work on rhetoric conducted by Taffel's former student, Michael Billig.Weatherall (2002) states that discursive psychology views language not as a window to cognition but instead suggests that language actually constructs and negotiates social psychological phenomena. Discursive psychological studies of group membership stress the dynamic nature of social identities; suggesting that group membership categories are produced and negotiated continually during social interaction. Discursive sychology also emphasizes the multiplicity of group membership categories by investigating the repertoires of social identities that are taken up and discarded for different purposes throughout discourse (Hansen and Liu, 1997).Weatherall (2002) states that discursive psychological accounts mostly focus on large-scale socio- cultural groups, such as gender or ethnicity, and many studies are designed to investigate social inequalities in minority group memberships. This aspect of discursive psychology could be criticised for being too focused on achieving social change and therefore ignoring group membership processes in majority groups.
Weatherall (2002) discusses the two foremost perspectives used in discursive psychological research on social identity and group membership.The first approach draws on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis; and mainly studies how identities, as social categories, are constructed and managed in discourse. The second approach uses a Foucauldian post-structural perspective; and researches the variety of social categories that are available in discourse. Hansen and Liu (1997) state that cognitive social psychologists have criticised discursive psychology for ignoring individual cognitive processes and in response to his many discursive psychologists have incorporated aspects of social identity theory into their research (while still focusing on discourse analysis).
TaJfel (1982) argued that to fully appreciate social identity theory the cognitive processes must be considered in conjunction with socio-cultural concepts. Hansen and Liu (1997) describe an example of how discursive psychology can be based on social identity theory. TaJfel and Turner (1979, cited in Brown, 2007) propose that individuals aim to achieve positive group distinctiveness in comparison with a relevant out-group. They describe several strategies for coping with low subjective status; individual social mobility, social competition and social creativity.
Social creativity can include changing the trait of comparison, changing the value of the trait or changing the out-group used for comparison. Discursive psychologists agree that individuals desire positive group distinctiveness and they describe similar strategies for increasing the perceived value of a particular group identity (Hansen and Liu, 1997). The individual may try to minimise distinguishing group characteristics, such as hiding their accent or changing their family name.A ollection of individuals may reinvent a particular category through language by introducing a new interpretative repertoire, such as the phrase 'black is beautiful'.
Individuals may also choose to emphasise a particular sub-group (or meta-category), for example defining themselves not Just as 'English' but as 'Northern' or 'Southern'. This can be done even with seemingly inflexible (or biologically determined) categories such as gender, for example the words woman, female, girl and lady all have different connotations and the individual can choose which image they wish to foreground at particular points during interaction.In this way, researchers can develop theories of group membership that include cognitive processes, social structures and also biological motivations. In conclusion, while many mainstream social identity theorists consider group membership to be primarily a cognitive matter, its co-founder TaJfel, stressed the importance of integrating cognitive factors with socio-cultural explanations, although he did not investigate this aspect (Billing, 2002, cited in Brown, 2007). It could be argued that both cognitive social psychology and discursive psychology are important approaches in the study of group membership.
They can be used to investigate different aspects of group membership and provide different levels of analysis. Cognitive social psychology and discursive psychology can be viewed as being complimentary not contradictory approaches to the study of group membership. However researchers have successfully attempted to combine cognitive theories with discursive methods and this can potentially provide a richer understanding of group membership than either approach could generate individually (Hansen and Liu, 1997). References Brown, S.
(2007) 'Chapter 6 - Intergroup processes: social identity theory